Historical Mormon Smackdown: Scriptural Bloodletter Edition!

First, may I say that if our entirely scientific poll is any indication, then Mitt Romney will do more presidential damage than Hatch did. Mitt, the comeback kid, came from 8 votes back to win by 6.

This week’s competition is the result of a special request. As you know, here at FPR, the customer is king.

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Scriptural Bloodletter Edition
Who is the less problematic scriptural holy warrior is the LDS Canon: Capt. Moroni or Joshua, son of Nun?

Capt. Moroni: Nephite war-leader; fought invaders and internal traitors; forced said internal traitors to fight or be killed; made them hoist copies of a torn coat from their towers (how gauche!); and, finally, really, really didn’t enjoy himself in all of this.

Joshua, son of Nun: hung out with Moses and, apparently, God; enacted God’s haram, resulting in genocide in several Canaanite cities (according to the Book of Joshua, at least); and wasn’t much into the whole “shade of grey” morality viewpoint. Unfortunately, we don’t know how he felt about what he did.

So there you go, two heroes of a previous generation (okay, several generations) whom we might consider monsters nowadays. Express your defense or disgust below and vote away.

15 Replies to “Historical Mormon Smackdown: Scriptural Bloodletter Edition!”

  1. ok, for us non-near-eastern-studies types, what’s a “haram”?Joshua was a prophet, Moroni was a swell guy, if not necessarily the ecclesiastical leader of his day (hey, a guy can’t do everything).I only find Moroni’s actions problematic for those strict constitutionalists who insist that individual freedoms be preserved at all costs. Wonder How Moroni would feel about the Patriot Act?As for Joshua’s so-called “genocide”, it is no more problematic than Nephi’s “murder” of Laban. If God tells you to do something, it trumps all the other commandments to the contrary. So perhaps the question really is: “Did/Would God really command someone to wipe out whole cities?”The answer is yes… the reasoning is less clear. Certainly these cities had reached, like Sodom and Gomorrah before them, a certain degree of wickedness. Perhaps if their women and children were permitted to survive, they would harbor bitterness in their hearts and cause problems with insurgency for many years. As to the cattle, well, i’m guessing that was merely a test of obedience, one which Saul notably failed.

  2. Rob,The trouble is I’ve heard that line before (“Certainly these cities had reached, like Sodom and Gomorrah before them, a certain degree of wickedness”): it’s what Islamic fanatics say to justify bombing London, Madrid, New York etc. We’re wicked so we deserve it. Now, I know you wouldn’t make that leap, but it goes to show, I feel, that we have to be careful with scriptural stories ‘cos they could prompt us to do all manner of crazy things.

  3. Ronan-you’re right, and coming from anyone else but a prophet of God, we would certainly label this fanatacism, extremism, whatever. I would hope than any normal person would not embark on a “holy war” without a prophet’s express specific instructions. Individual interpretation of scriptural stories would not do in this case. Interestingly, the Islamists do not claim to have modern prophets. They claim Mohammed was the final prophet, and that there is no more need for prophetic vision or leadership.. and yet there are so many disagreements within Islam.

  4. Rob, I’d suggest that any instruction to do murders should be treated as prima facia  evidence that the prophet in question has fallen. Until or unless someone gets a clear personal revelation telling them otherwise, they’re putting their immortal souls at risk if they follow through. After all, that kind of thing can make you the next John D. Lee (who evidently believed, at any rate, that he was acting under Brigham Young’s instructions). The example of Nephi is helpful: he got three different revealed instructions before he actually did a killing–which was a murder even if God endorsed it. Posted by RoastedTomatoes

  5. Haram is the idea that God instructs the absolute destruction of a given people in an effort to cleanse or purify the land in question. It is cited as the idea behind the OT holy wars. It means to dedicate (as in set aside for holy use) or to destroy depending on the context. The term “Harem” actually comes from this same root, as I understand it. Posted by John C.

  6. in reverse order…The example of Nephi is helpful: he got three different revealed instructions before he actually did a killing–which was a murder even if God endorsed it. the definition of “murder” that I found was this:The unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice.So it was not murder on two counts: first it was lawful, because God is the ultimate lawgiver, and if He says to do it, then it is not against His law. Second, there was no malice involved. Nephi clearly was not predisposed to do it, even though he had motive for malice against Laban. I’d suggest that any instruction to do murders should be treated as prima facia evidence that the prophet in question has fallen.I would definitely agree that one would require some sort of supplemental personal revelation before following a command to kill someone for the Gospel’s sake. However many prophets have been required to issue this command, especially in OT and BoM times. I would not consider it evidence that they had fallen necessarily. In fact, how many prophets do you know that have fallen? Hmmm.. let’s see, David, Balaam, possibly Jonah, possibly Cain, Judas. Not that many. In addition, while uttering prophecies, none of these was the President of the Church of his day. So they were “prophets” but not “the Prophet”. As you know, President Woodruff stated that a President of the Church would never be permitted to lead us astray. So I would not necessarily label someone a “fallen prophet” merely because they instructed me to do something that seemed odd, or even contrary to commandment or scripture. it seems evident from studying Joseph Smith’s life that he not infrequently “tested” his brethren with strange commands. And the revealed principle of plural marriage was taken as evidence of him being a “fallen prophet” by many, nevertheless it was not so. I don’t think “Prophets” can fall, as I understand Pres. Woodruff.

  7. Just to weigh in on this because I have little better to do for a few minutes today, I have to come in on the side of neither are problematic. Let me first consider Nephi who has been hauled is as defense exhibit 1. The key issue in regard to Nephi as I see it is not that it took multiple commands for him to do it. For me that reflects Nephi’s youth and lack of familiarity to revelation. Would he have been less justified acting after the first direction? The key issue is the reasoning he reaches that he provides. Taking the life of Laban is a big deal, but what are the costs of inaction? He reasons that the result would be the unbelief of his future nation. That is a big loss; bigger is the complete absence of the Book of Mormon. That is the cost of Nephi’s inaction–thankfully he was faithful. So, what is the cost in those terms of Joshua’s inaction or Captain Moroni’s? I think it is wrong to apply modern conditions as parameters to try to parallel these conditions, such a Vietnam draft dodgers or Islam extremists. In Joshua’s case, the Lord wanted an area where Israel could develop in isolation. As I’m sure John could clarify, the chief problem or chief temptation for Israel was false gods and idolatry–what had been a problem since trying to leave Egypt. And where did those temptations come from–surrounding and preexisting sources. Perhaps God knew what he was doing by calling for the cleansing–see the other discussion concerning God’s knowledge. The need of Israel’s isolation was greater than that of the lives of those taken, just as with Laban. (Yes it is simplified, but I think it hits the key points)Also, it is interesting to consider another key issue with Nephi. I have often considered his example as I struggle in my own ways to serve in my callings. Consider that Nephi’s earlier ideas seemed to have failed. They did provide Laban a chance to do the right thing and save his life. But, would Laban have been laying there drunk had not Nephi and his brothers made their earlier attempts? Is it a stretch to consider that Laban is celebrating the acquisition of property, Ferangi (SP?) that he is? Nephi’s attempts created the situation where he could be successful–they were not ultimately failures. As for Laban, he made himself expendible through his failure to serve the greater good. Perhaps the surrounding peoples also had such chances. If not, as we know concerning the justice of God, all peoples will still have equal opportunity to accept and follow what is right.Now, concerning Moroni, I think again that Vietnam is a really poor comparison. We were in no imminent threat from a Vietnam invasion. Moroni was facing an imminent threat, as we see ultimately the loss of life escalate from those Nephites who were traiterous to the overall freedom of the people. There are other, much more relavant parallels when treason warrants immediate capital punishment. There are times when Marshall law that limits the inidividual liberty of the people is necessary to insure the overall liberty of the society. But the key is that, as Moroni, those inacting the Marshall law must be honorable and righteous men. I think it is a good idea to trust Mormon on the character of Moroni. He obviously envied Moroni’s ability to rally his people to righteousness. Posted by Jim B.

  8. Good points, Jim.A lot of people don’t realize that Abraham Lincoln, one of our most respected presidents, enacted martial law during the Civil War, and had a lot of people executed on what we would now consider flimsy evidence. Even Pres. Hinckley in his post- 9/11 talk mentioned the need to sacrifice some of our personal liberties temporarily while we fight modern Gadiantons.

  9. Actually, Jim, I am most impressed with the DS9 reference that you worked into there.And, while I admit that at some point one may become so familiar with revelation that the instant recognition that this comes from the Lord is possible. But I still think that the request to kill comes infrequently enough that the Lord doesn’t mind affirming it to those who are slow to accept. Take Gideon, for example. I think He would appreciate that we question this particular command.

  10. You’ll note that Gideon did not realize he was speaking to an angel until v.22, at which time he immediately ceased his sign-seeking and went into prompt obedience mode.

  11. Right. The highlighted bits were the parts that were of interest to me (hence the highlighting). He’s talking to God directly there and everything. Posted by John C.

  12. Ah, so it is… silly me for falling victim to the “not scrolling down far enough” fallacy.Ok, what was your point in citing this obscure bit of scripture again? Ah yes, that sometimes people might seek confirmation a couple of times from the Lord to make sure they got the message right. OK, I concede your point. Actually I’ve never denied it, but i do want you to feel like you win once in a while.

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