About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery (joelsmonastery.blogspot.com). He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

Book Review: Mosiah – a brief theological introduction, by James Faulconer

My book review of “Mosiah – a brief theological introduction” by James Faulconer

Book Review: Mosiah – a Brief Theological Introduction, by James E. Faulconer

Note: this is the fifth book in a series by the Maxwell Institute covering the Book of Mormon. 

Different from many other series on the Book of Mormon, this one is a primer for new students of theological studies. 

Review:


James Faulconer is perhaps my favorite Latter-day Saint theologian and philosopher. He has an innate ability to take difficult concepts and lay them out in a way that makes those concepts understandable, while still engaging and stretching the reader. In his book on Mosiah, Faulconer doesn’t disappoint.


The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Why this Structure?
  2. Good Kings and Bad Kings: the Futility of Politics , the Necessity of the Atonement
  3. Salvation as Creation from Nothing
  4. Are We Not All Beggars?
  5. God Himself Shall Come Down


Faulconer notes that there are so many things going on in the Book of Mosiah that he could only discuss a few in this introductory book. However, the concepts he shares are illuminating, bringing out key concepts from the book that are very relevant to society today.

“Whatever else we say about the theology of Mosiah, that message is at its core, as it is at the core of the Book of Mormon as a whole. The Book of Mormon comes to us promising that what was true anciently continues to be true today. God’s children are not cast off forever; they will be redeemed.

“What does it mean to read the book of Mosiah with an eye to its message of comfort 

and redemption? It means to read theologically.” (pg 6)

This, perhaps, is one of the best definitions of what theology (the study of God) is. We can study

 the book to guess at where it happened. We can study it as literature. We can study it in a variety of ways. To study it theologically means we seek to understand God and our relationship with God.

 The book begins by giving a chronological timeline of the book of Mosiah. This is important. Faulconer shows that the book of Mosiah is a fragmentary document. First of all, its first few chapters were lost along with the other 116 pages that Martin Harris misplaced. We can infer some of the things missing from the lost section: history of King Mosiah 1 and the reign of Benjamin.  

 The book is fragmented in other ways. While it begins with King Benjamin’s sermons, this event occurs 20 years after the story of Zeniff begins. The book jumps around from one group to the next. It can seem complicated to keep the various story lines separated. In this same way, Faulconer notes that one of the book’s points is that government and civilization is also fragmented. The Book of Mormon discusses the fragmentation of peoples throughout the book: Lehi fleeing Jerusalem, Nephi escaping the Laman, Mosiah leaving the land of Nephi, Nephite dissenters going over to the Lamanites, Gadiantons, the list goes on.  It is this fragmentation or division with which both kings Benjamin and Mosiah2 are concerned. Benjamin will seek to unite his people through unity in Christ, while Mosiah2 will attempt to unify the people by also establishing the rule of judges.

However, as Faulconer notes, “Benjamin’s answer to the question of unity, the question which the book of Mosiah begins, is repentance and keeping covenant rather than a form of government.” (pg 24)

 
This concept is very important in today’s intense political wrangling and division (2020). The true answers for governmental and civil success are not in the policies we gain from Congress, 

Parliament, or any ruler in today’s world. It comes through personal repentance and making individual and communal covenants with God. Imagine if all people everywhere would strip themselves of hubris, anger and self-righteousness, and repent. Then, as with the people of Benjamin, join together in making a covenant of unity (Mosiah 4:1-5).

 Faulconer explains that this begins with Benjamin’s sermon – which is likely why Mormon placed this event prior to the story of Zeniff – in explaining just how civilization must be built and maintained.


Interestingly, he gives us a new definition of the word “nothing.” Benjamin teaches us to view our own “nothingness,” which often is confusing for modern Latter-day Saints, as we often teach that we are of infinite importance and children of loving Heavenly Parents. As Benjamin ties his speech to the Creation, Faulconer suggests that we view “nothing” from that same Creation story aspect. Unlike traditional Christianity, Latter-day Saints believe that God created the earth and universe from existing materials. These materials exist in chaotic form. Formless matter is “nothing” compared to the ordered creations of God. So, when we view ourselves as nothing, we can view ourselves as being in a chaotic, formless state, ready for God to bring us out of the void and into a holy and ordered state. Such understanding of this term ties it closer to modern Latter-day Saint views of us being children of God. We are his children, but require God to take us out of our confusion and chaos, and bring us into new life through Christ. Benjamin takes us from our personal Creation to our Fall into sin and formless chaos, and then our rebirth through Redemption through and by Jesus Christ.

Faulconer explains how faith and a view of our own nothingness leads to remission of sins, which naturally leads us to service to others, which equates to service to God. Why? Because it creates unity and civility among us. Again, governments cannot save mankind, only a turning to Christ. His discussion on this topic is fascinating and helps tie many important Book of Mormon concepts together, all leading to our personal and communal relationship with Father and Son.

 Abinadi’s sermon has one of the most difficult sentences in the Book of Mormon, in that it isn’t a complete sentence, but a series of somewhat connected clauses:

“And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son— The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.” (Mosiah 15:1-2)

I’ve pondered for decades on these verses, always feeling that some of its meaning was escaping me. Faulconer breaks down this confusing mess in chapter 5. In doing so, he notes the difficulties and points out the portions that are easily understandable, and which are open for possible interpretation. He offers the possibilities and shares his own views on what each clause means to him. In this, he goes into detail on how Jesus is both Father and Son, while still distinct from Heavenly Father. While many have viewed this fragmentary sentence as Trinitarian, Faulconer shows how it is uniquely Latter-day Saint teaching, bringing up the history of the Trinity, Arianism, and the restored understanding of the Godhead through modern revelation.


In his conclusion, Faulconer reemphasizes key points of the book of Mosiah:

“This fragmentary book about a fragment people is obsessed with the question of unity. How are the people of God to avoid the internal divisions that tear them apart and make them no more God’s people? The things we learn int he book of Mosiah should be read through the lens of that question about preserving the community, the church. As part of answering that questin, the book of Mosiah shows us good kings and one especially bad king, and it shows us Mosiah2’s reform of the Nephite government in response to his concern about bad kings. But it is clear that reform is not the point.” (pg 112)

Faulconer notes that the point is unity, and unity only comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, receiving a remission of sins, and following Christ in service and unity with our fellow man.

I learned much about the book of Mosiah from Faulconer’s brief introduction to the book. I now will be viewing the sermons by Benjamin, Mosiah2 and Abinadi in a very different way. During this very intense political period, I’ll examine my own views, how I treat others who disagree with me politically, and know that the answer to our divisions, poverty, and disasters is not through government, but through and in Jesus Christ. Knowing my own nothingness, or chaotic form I often find myself in, I can look to being reborn and recreated in Christ.


Brother Faulconer, thanks for again bringing light and understanding to me. It has changed me, and I know any that read this book will also be changed both intellectually and spiritually. 

Mosiah, a brief theological introduction by James Faulconer, is available through the Maxwell Institute: https://mi.byu.edu/brief/

Also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mosiah-theological-introduction-James-Faulconer/dp/084250012X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=faulconer+mosiah&qid=1600613506&sr=8-1

Review also available at:
https://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2020/09/book-review-mosiah-brief-theological.html

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 12-16

My blog post on Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 12-16

Excerpt:After establishing the “doctrine of Christ” in 3 Nephi 11 (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism/ordinances, Holy Ghost as the steps to being a united covenant people), Jesus then shared the Beatitudes he taught to the Jews in Matthew 5. However, he adds to the Beatitudes up front, giving a new way to understand the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount..“Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. “And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” (3 Ne 12:1-2)

https://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2020/09/come-follow-me-3-nephi-12-16.html

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 8-11

My blog post on CFM: 3 Nephi 8-11

Excerpt:

Most Mormons believe that the great Nephite destruction occurred, three days of darkness passed, and then Jesus showed up for lunch the next day.

However, the Book of Mormon’s text actually clues us in on the actual time frame involved here.

“And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:5).

“And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will show unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared, and also those who had been called Lamanites, who had been spared, did have great favors shown unto them, and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them—” (3 Nephi 10:18).

The destructions occurred almost a year before Jesus appeared to the people.  Such a time delay would allow Jesus to perform his works in Jerusalem among his apostles after his resurrection, begin the work for the dead in the Spirit World, and organize the work among those who resurrected with him..

http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2020/09/come-follow-me-3-nephi-8-11.html

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7

My post on Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7


Excerpt:”The Gadiantons have attempted to gain power through religious preachings (Korihor), assassination (Kishkumen), war (Amalickiah), secret combinations (Gadianton), and overthrowing the government.  Now they try another tactic: building their own nation into a power so great they threaten the Nephite and Lamanite nations. “The Gadiantons did not immediately attack army against army, but used a hit and run terrorist strategy.  They destroyed small towns on the borders and elsewhere that were not well defended. They probably carried off the women and children.  Their efforts brought chaos and instability, until the Nephites and Lamanites were forced to take up arms against them.”


https://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2020/09/come-follow-me-3-nephi-1-7.html

Book Review: Enos Jarom Omni

 Book Review: Enos, Jarom, Omni: a Brief Theological Introduction, by Sharon J. Harris. Published by the Maxwell Institute.

This is the 4th book in a series on the Book of Mormon. You can find my previous reviews here: 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob. The Maxwell Institute is focusing this series on modern theology/philosophy, and using new religious/scholarly methods to peek into the minds and writings of the authors of the Book of Mormon, showing us other ways to apply the writings of the Book of Mormon to our own modern lives.

Sharon J. Harris is an assistant professor of English at BYU.

Sharon J. Harris takes a shot at dealing with concepts hiding in these “itty bitty books.” They are small books, especially Jarom and Omni, and many of us tend to rush past them to get to the deep doctrinal teachings of King Benjamin in Mosiah and the war stories in Alma. However, Harris gives us a reason to pause for a few moments and consider what exactly is happening in these centuries that are covered within just a few verses.

The book is divided into three chapters: Enos, Jarom and Omni. Each of these chapters are then subdivided into various concepts that Harris wrings out of the text.

In Enos, she notes the time frame given for Enos and his father Jacob-almost 180 years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem to the time Enos wrote down his experience. This means that Jacob must have born Enos later in his life, perhaps in his 70s or 80s, and Enos also lived into his 80s. When Jacob’s words sunk into Enos’ mind, bringing him to pray, even as a young man, his father probably had been dead for several years.

Harris notes other interesting points that can be found in Enos. One concept that I completely missed in my 70+ times reading the Book of Mormon, is the idea of kenosis. Kenosis, or its verb form (kenoo, empty out, in Greek) is only found once in the Bible: Philippians 2:5-8. In the context, Jesus did not see it as a bad thing (robbery) to be equal with God. For him to do this, Jesus had to empty himself of all his godly power and become mortal, in order that he could be filled with greater Godly power.

Harris suggests that we see a form of kenosis happening with Enos. For him to receive a remission of his sins, he must empty himself of all his sins, fears, preconceptions, etc. In spending the entire day in prayer, he is able to totally empty himself of the world. In doing so, God was then able to fill Enos with something different: godliness. Enos now has a new view of the world, where he not only is able to pray for his friends and family (the Nephites), but also for his feudal enemies. Suddenly, with the promise of God to preserve the sacred records to someday come to the Lamanites (the Nephites having been destroyed as a people in Enos’ future), the Lamanites become his “brethren.”

 “Only that which is whole or complete can fully empty itself. Being whole is a necessary precondition of emptying in this saving, glorifying way. In Enos’s account, as we’ve seen, he writes these activities back to back–his soul was made whole, and then he poured his whole sould out (see Enos 1:8-9). In what sounds like a tongue twister, Enos could not pour out his whole soul until his soul was whole.” (p 30)

First we must empty ourselves of those things that impede our spirituality. Once forgiven of our own sins, or made whole, then we can empty ourselves in seeking blessings for others.

The book shows us the struggle Nephite prophets and people went through, struggling to deal with a Catch 22: the Lamanites were mortal enemies, yet with those same enemies came the promises of having the Lehite family restored in the latter days. For Enos, he struggles with this dichotomy: he prays, emptying himself, for Lamanites as his brethren, yet later speaks of them as blood thirsty, filthy animals, who sought the destruction of his brethren, the Nephites.

With the concept of Enos and kenosis comes the thought: what must I do to empty myself of all my misconceptions, prejudices, jealousies, fears, worries, temptations, sins, and worldly desires? Is this something that is done once, or many times within a lifetime? Then, once emptied and made whole, what do I do with that newfound spiritual strength? Perhaps this is one of the greatest pearls I gained out of Harris’ book. My view of myself and the world will not be the same.

With Lamanites as the long-term salvation for the Lehite promises, Harris asks us:

“Let’s think about the present. Who feels like your enemy? The person who makes fun of your child? The unreasonable neighbor? An ex? A co-worker out to get you? The one who lies and still gets prominent church callings? Or, who as a group seems to be against everything you stand for? Socialists? Democrats? Republicans? Libertarians? Pro-choice advocates? Pro-lifers? Environmentalists? Feminists? Preppers? Neo-Nazis? Globalists? Pornographers? Suburban racists? To put it in Mormon’s terms, which manner of -ites? Whoever they are and in whatever ways they are dangerous or destructive, would you engage in a spiritual wrestle over a long period of time to secure blessing for them and their descendants? Enos’s experience suggests that the same people we view as antithetical to our ideals could ultimately play a key role in our salvation.” (p 37)

Wow! That’s a lot to take in, especially as a Libertarian in a divisive election year!

In the Book of Jarom, Harris notices something that is not there.

“In Jarom’s text, then, let’s take a look at an important omission, something Jarom does not pass down. Jarom is the first writer of the small plates not to use the word, “filthiness.”” (p 51)

She explains that, beginning with Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, prophets have seen filthiness. Nephi saw Laman and Lemuel standing at the head of a river, which he termed as “filthy.” Later, Nephi, Jacob and Enos would all consider the Lamanites filthy. According to Harris, this is one way in which the Nephites developed a bias against the Lamanites. They viewed them as filthy in order to make them undesirable and the “Other.” Once turned into sub-humans, Nephite discrimination against Lamanites was easily justifiable. Harris suggests that we tend to de-humanize groups of people in our own day, calling them “filthy” in our own way. It isn’t a temporary situation, in the view of the Nephites, the Lamanite filthiness was a state of being.

Jacob will compare Nephite sins to the Lamanites, calling them more filthy than the Lamanites due to their sexual sins and pride. Jarom, however, leaves such name calling out. He notes their sins, but doesn’t hold this as a systemic issue for the Lamanites. Instead, Harris notes that Jarom and the other prophets were continually raging at the Nephites to repent. They were only too quick to return to serious sin, no cleaner nor filthy than the Lamanites. Meanwhile, most Nephites

“…could see Lamanite waywardness as confirming the prophecies and as evidence of their own righteousness and superiority.” (p 60)

The book recognizes that as we read the Book of Mormon, many Latter-day Saints favorably compare themselves with Nephites. Harris takes this a step further for us. If we compare ourselves with the Nephites, does that include their times of wickedness? Their embracing Gadianton robbers? Their final destruction? Harris notes that this is a sobering thought. It is.

Harris covers several more ideas from the 3 books. One of her last thoughts that intrigued me was the idea that Jarom and the writers in Omni lived in the “middle” age. They didn’t have the excitement of escaping Jerusalem with Lehi, nor the exhilaration of touching the wounds in the resurrected Jesus’ feet. Instead, they dealt with a middle period of time, in between the creation of the Nephite people, and the coming of Christ in power. Still, Jarom and the prophets prophesied of Christ as if he had already come, even though his coming was afar off.

Today, we also live in a middle period. We are exactly 200 years past the First Vision. No one is alive that knew Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. None of us experienced the dedication of the Kirtland, Nauvoo or Salt Lake Temples. Nor have we seen the coming of Christ in glory for the 2nd Coming. As with Jarom, we too, are in the middle. Harris then asks, what are we doing with our precious time? Have we settled in comfortably, or are we striving and preparing for that coming age. Do we work and live as if Christ has already come? As if Zion was already established?

As you can see from these few examples, there’s a lot packed into these “itty bitty books.” Are you ready to have your understanding of the Book of Mormon expanded? Then take a look.

Available now:

Maxwell Institute: https://mi.byu.edu/brief/

 Amazon: Enos, Jarom, Omni