The other day I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about slavery. The podcaster is an avowed atheist and said that Jesus Christ never condemned slavery. That got me thinking if any Mormon scriptures (do they still call them Standard Works?) condemn slavery. Here is what I found.
Old Testament: There is a lot written about slaves in the OT, but it is mostly rules about how to treat them. The 10th commandment says you are not to covet you neighbor’s manservant (slave) . It never says not to have slaves, just don’t covet ones you don’t have. Exodus 21:26-27 says if you hit your slave in the eye and blind him, you have to let him go. Same if you knock out a tooth. Exodus 21:12 says if you beat a free man you are to be put to death, but if you beat a slave (20-21) and he lived at least 2 days you are OK.
New Testament: Lots of mention of slaves in the NT, but again no probations against it. Jesus healed the ill slaves of a centurion (Luke 7:2). Why didn’t he tell the centurion how bad it was keeping slaves? Jesus also uses the term slave as a metaphor, such as when he comparing the relationship between a slave and his master to that of God with mankind (parable of the faithful servant). But again, never a condemnation. Paul tells the slaves to be obedient to their masters (Eph 6: 5-8).
Book of Mormon: Here we have a winner (though no chicken dinner)
8 And the king said unto him: Yea, if the Lord saith unto us go, we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them.
9 But Ammon said unto him: It is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.Alma 27: 8-9
So the Nephites had a law against slavery! But it seems it was just their law, and not applicable to our day. The Book of Mormon answered the question on infant baptism that was of concern in the early 1800’s, but does not really answer the question about slavery, maybe because nobody was asking?
Doctrine and Covenants: The only mention of the word slavery comes when Joseph Smith predicted the coming of the Civil War which would break out over disputes about slavery. There is no commendation nor prohibition about slavery. God was concerned about ‘hot drinks” (D&C 89) and laughter (D&C 88), but not slavery!
Pearl of Great Price: Facsimile 3 has a dark figure (#6), which Joseph Smith interpreted as “Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.” Again, no commendation, just a mater of fact that there were slaves.
It is well documented that the early slave owners in the Southern US used the Bible to justify slavery. Why do you think Jehovah in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the New Testament, BofM, and D&C was so unconcerned about slavery? Does the Judo/Christian God approve of it, or at least turn a blind eye to it? Is this the kind of God we want to worship?
 Most modern Bible translations use the word slave not servant, and slave and servant can be used interchangeable in biblical times.
It was disturbing for me years ago to read another bible translation and realize that Solomon’s temple was built by slaves. It really changes the NT stories to substitute all those “servants” for slaves too. Something to reckon with
Yes, Solomon’s temple was built with slave labor, but so was the Nauvoo temple (and possibly the Salt Lake temple). According to documents in the L. Tom Perry Library at BYU, the Flake family used their slave Green Flake to fulfill their 10% (tithing) labor commitment during the construction of the Nauvoo temple. There are also records of slaves being given to Brigham Young as tithing payment.
This was a great post, and a really important topic to discuss. There’s a critical scripture that I think is missing from your list: D&C 134:12, which is the last verse of the declaration of Mormon civil beliefs composed by Parley P. Pratt in 1835. It states, among other things, that “we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants…nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.” Bond-servants, for those wondering, is a biblical phrase used to describe slaves, and is used here as a scriptural equivalent. This declaration was composed under the direction of Joseph Smith in response to wary Missourians raising, shall we generously say, “concerns” with the large influx of Mormons in Jackson County, Missouri, and the impact this would have on their community. In particular this document was meant to make it clear that Mormons were NOT abolitionists, and so if slave-owning Missouri wanted to keep slaves, Mormons were just fine with that. Needless to say, Missouri was not mollified by these sentiments, so the real and lasting impact is that this declaration of belief–that Mormons will not oppose slavery if it’s legal–remains a canonized part of our modern-day scripture long after the nation in which it was composed has generally agreed that this was a practice that probably shouldn’t have been legal to begin with.
Although not on the same level of Roman, 16th-19th century, or other multiple empires slave systems, many aspects of Mormon life is “soft slavery”.
Wake up early for early (5 AM) morning seminary. You covenanted to give us 2 years of your life. Give us 10% of your money. Give us 5-20 hours/week of your time, after the 2 “covenanted” years. Marry who we tell you to. Have sex like we tell you. Accept all the callings we assign to you. Teach the lessons we instruct, and not from other sources. Do not criticize the task masters, even when they are wrong. Do not listen to others who state your “servitude” is misplaced. Do a media fast, when we tell you. Accept being yelled at/scolded at, when not being “obedient”. Cover up of any misdeeds of the decision makers/task masters. Dress as we tell you. Any negative press is affecting our “religious freedom”. “Slavery” is in the Bible/PoGP/DC and God expects us to be obedient to those who God has “called”.
This all falls in place with Hassan BITE model. These steps are a precursor to a slave state.
I recently went to Cuba and climbed the Manaca Iznaga tower, near Trinidad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valle_de_los_Ingenios. It was used by the sugar barons to control and watch the slaves. We were taught in church that the prophets are on the watch tower, to warn us of future harms. However, I would like to propose they are on the watch tower to scold us and keep us in their system of bondage.
If you declare that the Book of Mormon does not provide any real guidance on the topic of slavery I agree. But then again, what does the BOM teach about those with darker shades of skin in the first place? Hard to make the case that the BOM is anti-slavery when dark skins are seen as a curse. What about the role of women or how we should deal with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters?
The BOM claims to be another testament of Jesus Christ and whether or not you have a testimony of the BOM I think we can all agree that Christ is at the center of the book. But if you think that you can get guidance from the book on issues like slavery or race or gender or sexuality, forget it.
Maybe we shouldn’t plug these modern constructs (feminism, gay rights) into our analysis of the BOM. But aren’t we told that the BOM contains the fullness of the Gospel and that the restored Church/Gospel will eventually cover the earth? And that it was written for our time? Why then is the BOM (and don’t even get me started on the Bible) so lacking in areas of obvious concern to the Saints?
Some of us have come to believe that religion can’t really answer these questions. Often it comes down to basic morality. Call it the light of Christ or call it intuitive morality, most of us know that slavery is wrong without any scripture telling us. Same with a lot of other issues.
Regardless of the true nature of any god(s) that may exist, it seems clear to me that God as understood by The Church is a human construct that changes over time according to the culture and proclivities of the humans worshipping him.
For example, the God of the OT began existence as a patron storm deity in the Iron Age who originally was worshipped alongside Baal, but later was adopted by Israel as a universal god after the Babylonian captivity and was subsequently retconned to be superior to Baal. That God was ok with slavery and genocide and all kinds of stuff that is completely unpalatable to modern sensibilities.
God in the NT changes rapidly across the gospels and epistles as Paul and other disciples take Jesus’ ideas and run with them to places far afield. The God of the NT didn’t think much of marriage, couldn’t make up his mind about faith vs works, and was going to end the world within a few short years.
The God of Joseph Smith’s day was quite racist, misogynistic, and was also going to end the world in a few short years. That God was completely unaware of the coming social and technological revolutions that would characterize the 20th and 21st centuries. And, unfortunately, he’s very similar to the God of the church today who seems to have largely slept through the social and technological revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries. Today’s God is homophobic, scientifically illiterate, a Republican, and an investment portfolio wunderkind.
One of the great fallacies of the modern church is to presuppose univocality across its various source documents, sacred texts, and teachers. Our gospel is not an unchanging eternal round but a patchwork quilt with fabric from fascinating contradictions. God is not only seen through a subjective lens, but largely painted by a subjective brush.
To be clear, no disrespect to your personal God. Your personal God may be egalitarian, scientifically curious, and all around awesome. I’m only saying that God is, in fact, personal.
People simply thought differently. Much closer to our times, I understand that, before the invention of artificial fabrics for swimsuits, men and boys often swam nude such as at high school swim meets and YMCA pools well into the 1960s — even at the Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City, where the president of the church, even George Albert Smith, did nude laps for exercise. That was those days — now, we don’t think that way any more. I’m not justifying slavery or nude swimming. In biblical days, there wasn’t a cash economy and salaries hadn’t been invented yet, and slavery was an economic model. That slavery differed in some regards from the plantation slavery of the Americas.
Yes, ji, times change, but the Church teaches God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Church does NOT change with culture, or so we are taught. Why was God OK with the Prophet swimming nude a 100 years ago, and not today? Why was God OK with Slavery 2000 years ago, but not today?
Interesting discussion, and I’d like to throw into the mix one of my favorite scriptures from Apostle Paul:
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV).
God may not change –but people change, and societies change, and churches change, and any church’s doctrine changes. I am okay with this. I do not accept any assertion that doctrine never changes. Besides, slavery exists outside the church and is not a gospel principle — the church has existed in societies with slavery, and in societies without slavery.
My favorite verse on slavery is:
15“If slaves should escape from their masters and take refuge with you, you must not hand them over to their masters. 16Let them live among you in any town they choose, and do not oppress them.
I was always struck that Bible quoting slave owners skipped that one.
Stephen, I have always liked that text.
I think Ben Spackman has one of the best treatments of slavery in the Bible from an LDS viewpoint here: https://benspackman.com/2019/11/gospel-doctrine-lesson-40-colossians-and-philippians-but-mostly-philemon/
I think D&C 101:79 is pretty clear on this.
This week it was announced that President RMN will be the first recipient of the Morehouse College (a historically Black college) Ghandi-King-Mandela Peace Prize. From the Church News: “The 98-year-old President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was selected as the inaugural recipient of this award “for his global efforts in ‘abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice against any group of God’s children’ through nonviolent ways.”
Ghandi fought to throw off the yoke of oppressive colonizers, exploiting the people and resources of his country. No apology for Brigham doing the same thing to the “Indians” he displaced and on which the central Stake of Zion is built.
King who fought, bleed, and died for the same Civil Rights movement LDS prophets and apostles fought against as ungodly – socialist – Satan’s plan.
Mandela, who fought against (and was imprisoned for) segregation that denied Black men, women, and children from full participation in his society. Jailed from 1964 to 1988 (a good stretch longer than Liberty Jail). At least the saints granted Blacks full fellowship in 1978. But young people – don’t date and marry outside your race.
“abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice against any group of God’s children“
I’m sure the LGBTQIA+ members and their families are relieved and delighted to hear that RMN will be making this a priority – admonishing members to open their hearts and arms to this community. Especially those trans kids and their families. After all, we supported a Protection of Marriage law that was in no danger of not being passed – in the name of protecting Religious Liberty that keeps it lawful for the church to continue to hold fast to their “attitudes and actions of prejudice” against ‘that’ group.
Remember- correlation does not equal causation. The $6 million donation to the NAACP mentioned in the article probably has nothing to do with RMN’s honor. Whispered echos of – “you can buy anything on this earth for money”.
Sorry – I should take a breath and be grateful that same-sex marriage is no longer considered apostasy. When you’re excommunicated it will be for old fashioned immorality – just like any other sinner.
What ideas are you and I slave to?
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in abondage one to another.
Isn’t D&C 101:79 based on 101:77? Can we say that the principle in 79 applies only because of (and only after) the action in 77?
Slavery is a vastly misexamined part of civilization. Simply put, when Americans think of slavery, they think in terms of black and white…literally. Yet, in the past, slavery has been a part of the vast majority of lands and kingdoms. But more surprising to most people is the role it plays in our world currently. Today, 167 countries still have some form of modern slavery, which affects an estimated 46 million people worldwide. Modern slavery can be difficult to detect and recognize in many cases. This is because slavery has moved underground in most countries and because the definition of slavery has expanded and evolved over the past several decades. Forms of modern slavery include slavery by “ownership” (“chattel” slavery), government conscription (forced military service or government labor), forced prison labor, forced migrant labor, debt bondage (slavery until debts are paid), sexual slavery, forced marriage/child marriage, child labor, and forced begging. Asian and Africa have the most, with the top 5 countries being India (an estimated 8 million slaves),
China, North Korea, Nigeria, and Iran.
Hypocrisy has always existed a little too close to home for most of us, from the Israelite prophets condemning their people’s slavery in Egypt while downplaying their own slavery history, to Thomas Jefferson declaring that all people are created equal while owning slaves of his own. You can hear the sadness in his voice when the great historian Henry Louis Gates II recites the centuries of black-owning-black slavery in his documentary on African history. Most of us are well aware that the 1865 13th amendment to The Constitution forbidding slavery did not end the turmoil that our nation continues to go through,
I know that I speak for most of your readers when I say that I find slavery in all forms abhorrent. I don’t know why it isn’t condemned by prophets past. I wish it was more strongly condemned currently, although I do appreciate the words of Russell M. Nelson: “I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children”. Every year I try to listen to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and wish that it only could be so for all people.
A takeaway for me is that gospel can be lived anywhere. The gospel is much less about what other people do, and is more about what I do or what an individual believer does. The believer can be found in many circumstances, many of which are not good, and he or she can still believe in God. Early Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, and slaves were everywhere (even Onesimus was a slave to Philemon), and women had no legal status. Every church’s doctrines (which are its teachings) evolve to reflect changing situations. A church can sometimes help move the social order, but usually the church (any church) responds to it. The OP asked: “Why do you think Jehovah in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the New Testament, BofM, and D&C was so unconcerned about slavery?” Maybe because, in the big scheme, slavery isn’t the issue. Maybe the issue is how one lives the truth that one has, whether one is a slave or a slave-owner? Similarly, maybe it doesn’t really matter eternally if one person has cancer and another doesn’t, or if one person is rich and another is poor. Maybe God was so unconcerned about slavery because it isn’t the institution of slavery that matters–it is what one does individually in response to it.
Georgis, Does it matter in the eternities if one person drinks tea, and one person doesn’t? I like your explanation, but I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around God caring about tea and coffee, yet does not seem to car about slavery.
Bishop, I don’t think that God doesn’t care about slavery. By the time that Moses laid down the law in the wilderness, slavery was heavily and deeply engrained. God’s people (then and now) have to live in whatever environment they find themselves. As ji mentioned above, slavery was an existing economic model. When a city was defeated in war, the lucky ones became slaves; the unlucky ones died on the spot–if continuing to live one more day is how we measure goodness (and I like Victor Frankl’s book on his German concentration camp experiences, where people lived with hope to see another day, for a wretched day alive as a prisoner was better than being dead). None of that means that God encourages, supports, or condones slavery. I think that God’s justice will require people to answer for the wickedness that they do to other people, although I do not know how this will happen. I can do good in my sphere. I don’t seek to find fault with God for not criticizing slavery in the OT and NT; the question is whether I can put my trust in God and can love my neighbor. I do not do it as well as others would want me to, but I can’t control the expectations that others have of me. Rather than worrying about why God doesn’t seem to care about slavery (and many other injustices), I leave it to Him to address those injustices in His way and time (and I believe that He will), and I try to worry about whether people who come into my orbit find some peace and kindness from rubbing elbows with me.
Georgis, has something here? I mean, at the time the Word of Wisdom was given, for example, it was not common for people to drink tea and coffee and smoke. And when the Sermon on the Mount was given, people did not have lustful thoughts, they were kind to their neighbors, etc. In fact, the more I think about it, the gospel is not about change; it must always stay in line with the status quo so as to not disrupt. If a society is ingrained in something, then God will say nothing on the matter. Hence, only in instances where there is no slavery will God condemn it.
God’s ways are not our ways. I think it is sad when people hate God because God apparently doesn’t champion their issue-of-the-week.
Who knows why God didn’t forcefully speak against slavery in biblical times? I don’t know, and I have to think that no one knows. God’s ways are not our ways, and we may take his name in vain when we speak for him. But we can see in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) that God’s prophets spoke to masters about treating slaves fairly, and to slaves about performing honest work — not to endorse slavery, but to sanctify the souls of the people. Both Onesimus (slave) and Philemon (master) were church members in the New Testament church, and Paul thought of both of them as friends.
I am glad that slavery is over, and hope for the day when all unkindness will be over. God is no respected of persons — the former slave will have every opportunity for salvation and even exaltation. It all works out.
I oppose slavery as much as the next person, but I cannot join the virtue-signalers by hating slaveowners in biblical times (or hating God for not speaking more loudly against slavery in the Bible). Charity suggests that I not unkindly condemn them. I cannot explain the why of ancient societies.
Okay, let the down-voting resume.
Ji, when you write “their issue of the week,” are you suggesting we only care because it’s some sort of fad or something, that we’re fickle? Please, tell us what you really think. Judge much?
@Georgis and @Ji: I think this “accomodationist” view of scripture and revelation is a very interesting one. Here I’m using the idea of “accomodationism” as a way of saying that sometimes God let’s us “live the gospel in an imperfect way” because He judges that is better than trying and failing to get us to live a higher version of the gospel. (Here’s a presentation by Spackman where he explains it: https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/august-2017/truth-scripture-and-interpretation ).
In many ways, I like the idea of accomodationism, as it really seems to explain so much of what we see in scripture in relation to some of these difficult issues. It seems that sometimes we as a people have gotten false ideas into our apple/truth carts, and God judges that it would be too traumatic in some way to upset our apple/truth carts, so He leaves us to believe those false ideas. I feel like this works to explain slavery in the Bible and among the early 19th century saints, as well as things like the priesthood and temple ban and the now disavowed racist justifications for it.
The problem is that we have an absolutist streak that claims (as we did in the aftermath of Obergefell) that man’s laws cannot change God’s laws. These claims to accomodationism seem to at best add an asterisk to this kind of absolute statement that says, “* normally God cannot accomodate false ideas/practices, but sometimes, when they are held strongly enough, He can.” What do we really believe? Do we believe that God tells us truth and nothing but truth and expects to follow it all, or does He make accomodation and allowance for sincerely and/or commonely held but false beliefs?
The other main concern is, if God has tolerated false ideas among His people in the past, are there false ideas in our apple/truth cart that we are holding on to so strongly that God can’t/won’t tell us for fear of upsetting our apple/truth cart too much? Should we be seeking to find those things and prepare ourselves to get rid of them?
In short, I kind of like the idea of accomodationism for its ability to explain the past. It makes me awfully uncomfortable, though, in the present as I wonder what false ideas we are unwilling to discard.
Oh. And the whole, “We hate God” thing because we point out some problems and inconsistencies? Very nice touch.
MrShorty, People change, societies change, churches change, and every church’s doctrine changes. I am okay with this. I do not accept any assertion that doctrine never changes (with all due respect, Elder Bednar and I may see some things differently). To use your words, yes, I have to believe that God makes accomodation and allowance for sincerely and/or commonly held beliefs. Here a little, and there little… God cares about saving individual souls as individuals.
In all of Christ’s teachings in the New Testament, EVERYTHING he said was to change individuals in their relationships with God and with other individuals — he said NOTHING about changing societal practices or governmental policies. He hasn’t changed. Individual faith, individual hope, and individual charity are what really matter — I think he leaves societal practices and governmental policies to mankind to figure out on our own.
It seems to me that God gave the confirming witness to President Kimball’s petition to overturn the priesthood ban only after the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were ready to receive it. I think President Kimball played it right — the two members of the Twelve who were most likely to resist were conveniently absent from the temple session that day — Elder Stapley was in the hospital and Elder Peterson was in Argentina, as I understand.
God’s ways are not our ways. No doubt, we have false ideas among us. For example, many Latter-day Saints seem to know the “why” to a great many matters, and also seem to know a great amount about domestic housing arrangements in the celestial kingdom, but Pres. Oaks wisely reminded us recently that we really know essentially nothing — we need to trust God. Sometimes I think there is too much dogmatism among us. Faith, hope, and charity…
ji, “I think he leaves societal practices and governmental policies to mankind to figure out on our own.” While I appreciate the attempt, that’s not how God seems to have operated in either the ancient or the modern Church. Moses; Joseph Smith; God, through them, (I mean, how else do we get his words)? had all sort of things to say about how to set up societies and run them. “Go take over this land.” “Go kill this people.” “Establish a city here.” etc. Very concerned about all sort of things on the large scale.
In keeping up with the comments, I must declare that I am completely OK with nude swimming and not OK with slavery. My wife, however, wants to go on record as being firmly against both.
As far as how God could possibly be in favor of slavery at anytime, I would suggest that He never has been. But he has strictly allowed personal agency, even when it got us into a whole lot of trouble and especially when church leaders made stupid decisions. Which should give religious leaders and their followers pause, but it doesn’t. That is why when I follow religious leaders, I try to follow not too closely. “Arm’s length religiosity” and efforts to develop spirituality outside of a church construct could save us a lot of problems.
Brian, no one here has suggested that God is OK with slavery. You write that God “had all sort of things to say about how to set up societies and run them.” God has at times told His people how to establish their own societies, or parts of them, but generally He lets His people figure a whole lot out on their own. ji is right that nowhere in the 4 gospels (or in the epistles) did Jesus give a commandment to the Roman empire, or to Pontius Pilate, or to the Sanhedrin, or to the mayors of Jerusalem, Nazareth, or Capernaum about how they should abolish slavery, allow women to own land, or any other issue. He did, however, teach people to have faith and to believe, and to love and forgive their neighbor, regardless of their situation, whether it be a nobleman, a centurion, a farmer, a city dweller, or an outcast leper. Elijah focused his teaching on idolatry. All the prophets called on individuals (not the state and not the temple establishment or synagogues) to lift up the downtrodden and to seek justice for the widow and orphan. God’s message is almost always to individuals.
Old Man, you’re right: God respects human agency. Some people use their agency to do harm to others, but God will right every wrong, although I don’t know how. But bad things do happen to good people, and that does not mean that God is dead, nor (in my opinion) does that mean that He is worthy of our contempt (and you do not suggest that He is).
Bishop Bill, you asked at the outset why didn’t Jesus tell the centurion that keeping slaves was bad. I don’t know, but I am leery of presentism. Clearly in ancient societies all over the world slavery was not considered the ill that we consider it today. What mattered is that the centurion believed in Christ, which he did. Future generations may condemn our generation for eating meat or for driving gas-powered cars, and maybe in time we’ll learn that this is wicked, but until those actions become sins, we have individual and personal areas where we can all improve, individually, particularly in faith, in hope, and in charity. After all, if we lack those, all the rest that we have won’t really matter, will it?
Theodicy: to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil.
If God is good, he wants people to treat each other well. Slavery is a condition of extreme misery. God should have commanded people not to have slaves. If God didn’t give this commandment he either (1) doesn’t care about slavery; or (2) he isn’t good. The third option is that God is just a collection of the existing society’s current morals. God didn’t actually write the scriptures. Prophets, who claimed to be inspired by God, wrote the words down. Maybe those prophets weren’t inspired by God; they were inspired by another source. Sometimes I wonder if we ought to go back to polytheism so we can better explain theological inconsistencies.
I don’t have an answer. God should have outlawed slavery very plainly and very clearly. This is a good discussion.
Georgis, of course Jesus didn’t command the Romans to do anything. What sort of argument is that? He commanded his followers to do all sorts of things and could have easily asked them not to have slaves, but he didn’t because the rest of society thought it was alright? That’s your argument? Why not address my examples? He asks people to do things that don’t jive with current trends in society all the time.
Sure we need faith, hope, and charity. He told and showed us specifics about those many times: give the poor, clothe the naked, etc. Why not say something about not buying and selling people?
Sure, God’s message is always to individuals. I mean, that’s how it works. But he also supposedly asks leaders (Moses, Joseph Smith) do actually command societies to do things. Do you disagree with this point?
Finally, I think you are making some valid points at times. And I’m wary of presentism as well (though not as much as you). But to you imply people are suggesting God is worthy of contempt is ridiculous. No one is saying that. You’re totally misreading the comments.
Brian, I am not willing to say that “God should have outlawed slavery very plainly and very clearly.” I don’t see it as my place to dictate what God should or should not have done. Some people are comfortable going there, but I am not one of them. I also won’t question why Jesus did not ask his followers not to buy and sell slaves: I try to make sense of what He did say (or at least what is recorded) instead of questioning why He didn’t preach what I would have wanted Him to preach.
You brought up the Word of Wisdom earlier. In my opinion, there’s no sin in smoking or drinking, at least for people who are outside of the Church. It wasn’t considered a ban at all in the early days of the Church, and moderation was preached. The Word of Wisdom seems to have been followed with looseness as the Saints moved west. Brigham Young spoke on it in the 1860s-70s, but it wasn’t a do-or-die issue. John Taylor emphasized it in his presidency in the 1880s, but it was encouragement and not compliance. It wasn’t until Heber J. Grant that strict observance became obligatory. I think my history is right, and others may correct me, please. For those inside the Church who have covenanted to eschew alcohol and tobacco, the sin comes in disregarding the covenant (breaking our oath?), and not in act itself. The Word of Wisdom is not a good example of an instance where God spoke to define sin to the world. Non-members who drink or smoke break no oath, and do not sin. We in the Church err when we judge people as sinners because they drink or smoke.
Today, we have more light and knowledge on slavery (D&C 101:79), and our nation’s laws proscribe it. Should I become enslaved (think put in a concentration camp in the 1940s, or in Mao’s China in the 1960s, or in a Russian Gulag in the 1950s, or in a Chinese camp for Uyghur slaves today), I can still have faith, hope, and charity, while hoping for the day of freedom. Bad as it is, slavery doesn’t stop good people from loving the Lord and loving their fellowman. That’s why I suggest that maybe, maybe slavery’s lack of condemnation in the ancient writ isn’t the issue that requires our focus. Yes on working to root it out today, but I can’t spend too much time questioning God’s motives. Some see in this question of slavery a reason to reject God, which is their business, but I see another question: how can I trust God if or when He does not appear to hear and answer me? Job thought that he could, and Job’s wife thought otherwise: individual agency at work.
This has been an enlightening discussion for me. Thanks to all who participated.
Someone gave me a thumbs down on my previous comment. Apparently we have an anti-skinny dipper in our midst. I promise to keep my suit on while surfing Times & Seasons.
God should have outlawed skinny-dipping very plainly and very clearly?
I support Janey’s third hypothesis: “God is just a collection of the existing society’s current morals.” Religion is very much a human construct. Even when I was I was a practicing Mormon, I felt that church members humanized God to fit their own concept of what He is like. Partly due to the fact that we worship a God of flesh and bones, and partly due to human beings being very egocentric. We have created a God in our own image.
Old Woman, Part of my assertion that God’s ways are not our ways is that in the beginning, God created man in His image — and ever since then, mankind has been re-creating God in our image. We really know very little about God, but we make up a lot — our desire for certainty and our itching ears lead us to fill in a lot of gaps with our own imaginations, which we seem to enforce dogmatically and uncharitably Yes, generally speaking, humans are very egocentric.