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Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet 
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 Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet



Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:11 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
the succession issues should not be a surprise to anyone. An organization with a charismatic leader who dies young and without a formal succession plan will have that happen. What is interesting is the many types of leaders who tried to emerge from the power vacuum. One thing that didn't seem to be clear/explained in the book is how "god's army" affected that succession. those kinds of groups tend to move in lock step and become power brokers in times of change (look at the military in Egypt).


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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
I would like to insert a historical note here. According to Mormon folklore (what else can I call it), when the Saints left Illinois and headed west, you are supposed to believe that they were simply waiting for God to tell them where to go, much as in Genesis:

"Now the Lord had said unto Abram [Abraham], Get thee out of they country, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." Genesis 12:1 (KJV).

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. The Mormons left Nauvoo in 1846 and relocated to a temporary camp in western Iowa (by this time Iowa was already a state). Here they would meet with fur trappers and traders who had been further west. Remember, Jefferson had sent the Corps of Discovery west in 1804 to explore the Louisiana purchase and to seek a waterwat to the Pacific. By 1810, John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company had established Fort Astor at the mout of the Columbia River (the site of present day Astoria, Oregon). And he was not the first. The Hudson's Bay Company was already trading with the Indians in the Pacific Northwest.

By 1824, Jim Bridger had explored the Salt Lake Valley, stating that "the grass was so tall it brushed my horse's belly." In 1825 the the first fur trapper rendezvous was held at Burnt Fork, Wyoming (of course Wyoming was not a state at this time). By 1843, the Oregon Trail was well established. By this time, the Spanish had also established settlements in New Mexico (Santa Fe) and Southern California (Los Angeles). So the West was hardly a wasteland. In fact the "Mormon Trail" closely followed the Oregon Trail for most of its distance.

The Mormons met with Jim Bridger at his fort on the Green River. He described for them the valley of the Great Salt Lake. No doubt, this did arouse some belief in Divine Providence; in the Salt Lake Valley, a large freshwater lake (Utah Lake), which lies near the town of Provo (home of Brigham Young University), is connected by a river to a larger salt water body (the Great Salt Lake). Compare this to a map of Israel/Jordan.

So, on July 24, 1847 when Brigham Young announced, "This is the right place, move on," he was referring to the location told to him by Bridger.


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Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
Not surprising. The honesty behind Mormonism is yet to be found.


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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
This book is leaving me with more questions that I started with. Why did the early church grow in the first place???? I had assumed that doctrine about being reunited with family after death and posthumous baptism ensuring salvation of family members who died before being converted was the big draw. Among the Mormons I talk with, those are the key pieces of doctrine for them. But apparently these developments didn't take place until after 1840. So what was so alluring about the church doctrine in the 1830s? Why were so many people willing to give so much money, time, and effort to this church? Was it just the temper of the times? Settlers were migrating west into Ohio, Missouri, and the mid-west. Whole communities traveled together. I know Quakers migrated as communities out of the Carolinas into Ohio (because of their opposition to slavery). Was the whole country just a passel of religious communities? Were the Mormons the only group to send missionaries abroad? I know land hunger was a huge draw for immigrants, and if the Mormons formed a significant fraction of the messengers overseas, it makes sense that the church grew through foreign immigration.
Does anyone know of a book that explores these questions?



Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:15 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
KayR wrote:
what was so alluring about the church doctrine in the 1830s?


Joseph Smith was a star, full of charisma, confidence, enthusiasm, vision, imagination, charm and again, confidence. I really doubt there were many competitors for this scale of effrontery, especially for people dreaming of the New World and the endless frontier. The idea that the American continent had an ancient link to Jesus and that this had been revealed in magical golden plates must have struck people as plausible. Put it together with moral discipline and fake sincerity and you are on a winner.

Wikipedia wrote:
According to the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites are members of a dark-skinned nation of indigenous Americans that occasionally battled with the light-skinned Nephite nation. They are described as descendants of Laman and Lemuel, two rebellious brothers of a family of Israelites who crossed the ocean in a boat around 600 BC. Their brother Nephi founded the Nephite nation.

The Lamanites reputedly gained their dark skin as a sign of the curse for their rebelliousness (the curse was the withdrawal of the Spirit of God), and warred with the Nephites over a period of centuries. The book says that Jesus appeared and converted all the Lamanites to Christianity; however, after about two centuries, the Lamanites fell away and eventually exterminated all the Nephites.

Who would not be enthralled by this shit? Reminds me of Don Genaro.


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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
Joseph's charisma could only sway converts who had personal exposure to the man--yet there were Mormon colonies in distant places like Missouri that certainly had no exposure to him while he was in Ohio.
The Book of Mormon spins a good tale that tied in with the whole Manifest Destiny movement, but was that really enough to be willing to die for?



Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:47 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
KayR wrote:
The Book of Mormon spins a good tale that tied in with the whole Manifest Destiny movement, but was that really enough to be willing to die for?


in some ways, i guess the "proof is in the pudding". apparently it was because it was successful! I know that doesn't really explain it, but it is hard sometimes to put ourselves in the historical context.


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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
Chapter Four on The Blood of the Prophet ends with a good summary of the evolutionary adaptivity of Mormonism.
Quote:
Today Salt Lake, Tomorrow the World
The Mormon Church - evolution in action: What had by all indications begun as an impulsive hoax had become a moneymaking gamble on a mystical book giving a faux history of Ancient America. But then it made the Darwinian leap to become a fresh and ingenious fringe religious movement. Creative ideas and aggressive marketing increased their numbers. Vicious persecutions put the fledgling cult into the crucible; the ordeal burnt off the half-hearted, and tempered the faith of the survivors to a fierce new strength. Those hardy souls who made it through the ordeal were more dedicated than ever, bound together unshakably and bolstered enough to survive the long, harsh, crushing exodus to a place where they could set up their own kingdom on earth. Add to that solid business placs, near-ridiculous rates of reproduction, a truly massive pool of voluntary labor operating with complete loyalty to a small central authority and top it off with tax free status for their operations, and you have all the successful makings of a successful world religion. Or even a major multinational corporation. Page 89


This all shows how truth is just one small factor in the adaptivity of a religion, in a context of ferment in a New World where people are willing to let their imagination run wild and go with a vision of order and hope. It is similar to Saint Paul's comment at Romans 5:3-4 "we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint."

This illustrates a key point in evolution, the Murphy's Law principle that what can evolve will evolve. The conditions were receptive for a neo-shamanistic cult like Mormonism. Many were called to proclaim a vision for the New World, but only Joseph Smith had the supreme chutzpah and the backing of a practical saint like Brigham Young. It is not to say Mormonism was predestined to arise. Rather, if you compare to the evolutionary story of the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago, plants had put enough oxygen into the air and sea that animals would be supported, so random mutation meant that the evolutionary process eventually threw up complex life forms that succeeded in the new rich environment. There are a lot of dreamers out prospecting for El Dorado, and we only hear about the very few who strike it rich; in Joseph Smith's case the mother lode he found was popular gullibility.


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Sat Nov 02, 2013 7:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
I don't know about your Murphy's, Robert. This still seems to rely too much on a retrospective view, whereby we "see" how something managed to survive merely by noting that it did, and frequently making up the path that it took on that survival journey. Because no one really knows accurately how or why a form survived. There are too many 'unknown unknowns' for us to be able to do that. 'Conditions were favorable' might seem to capture it, but I don't think it does. The trials and tribulations lead as often to the extinction of the form as to its continuation, so there is something maddeningly unique about what happens in culture that may rule out the application of theory on most levels.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: The Blood of the Prophet
DWill wrote:
I don't know about your Murphy's, Robert. This still seems to rely too much on a retrospective view, whereby we "see" how something managed to survive merely by noting that it did, and frequently making up the path that it took on that survival journey.


Murphy's Law, 'whatever can go wrong will go wrong', is usually understood as a sort of ironic joke, since it seems that there are infinite things that can go wrong by accident, and most things actually work as expected once initial bugs are sorted out. In terms of our expectations and understanding, Murphy's Law is obviously wrong. But then, if we think in more of a deterministic and mechanistic clockwork view of causality, the range of what can go wrong, or what can evolve, is more limited within real but unknown physical constraints. Similarly, the boundaries of what can evolve are set by the resource dynamics of the environment

When the conditions of an ecological niche are established and known, the boundaries of what can happen within that niche become far more predictable. Add fertilizer and plants will grow better. Conquer a vast new continent with almost limitless freedom and abundance, and new religions will emerge that syncretise features of various mythical sources.

Biology sees many examples of convergent evolution. In similar conditions, different species occupy the same niche. The USA is exceptional in its historical evolution to become a leading global power, due to the marriage of the cultural resources of Europe and the natural resources of the American continent. The evolutionary principle that the conditions enabled an institution like Mormonism to flourish mean that even if J. Smith had been gunned down earlier in his colourful career, a similar sort of body would have emerged to fill the available gap.


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Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:57 pm
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