Friday, May 08, 2020

Signs of Societal Decay

One of the things Anda and I have noticed and started discussing is that in the overall scheme of the Book of Mormon, we have clear pictures of at least three societies that had "ripened in iniquity" and were destroyed as a result: the Jaredites, the Nephites (twice--one just before Jesus and one in about 420 AD), and the Ammonihahites. And in all three cases, there are certain "markers" or "red flags" that appear just before the society is destroyed. They are things we can watch for in our own society.

The markers that we've noticed in our studies:

1. People seek for power over doing what's right, and at any cost. The scriptures talk about people seeking for "gain," which is defined in text as money and power, not just money.

2. The poor suffer and are not cared for, and there is great inequality economically and educationally.

3. Secret combinations exist and are not resisted, but joined.

4. The people cast the righteous out from among them.

5. The people reject the prophets and either cast them out or outright kill them.

6. The people stop protecting and cherishing their women and children, but most noticeably their children, becoming willing to let them suffer in the adults' pursuit of their own ideological goals.

7. Anger is rampant, to the point that people cannot think clearly any more.

8. Pride is embraced as good, humility is mocked and persecuted.

9. Governmental norms and structures break down and become impotent, quite dramatically and somewhat suddenly.

Can you think of any more? These things are very consistently mentioned when a society is ripening for destruction. The first I noticed was number six, that they stopped caring about children. This struck me because in the narratives, it's quite brazen. The Jaredites suit their children up and send them into battle with their women without any regard for the fact that they would quickly be slaughtered. And, given the reality that no children survived the battles to the second and third and fourth rounds, they had no problem killing the children either. In Ammonihah, they throw living children into a pit fire and burn them alive. At the end of the Book of Mormon, there are graphic descriptions of children being fed on the flesh of their fathers, women raped and tortured to death, and, like the Jaredites, nobody is left after the last battle except they are hunted down and slaughtered--children included.

Once we realized there was this consistent marker of a society about to be destroyed, I started noticing the others. Normally these things start slowly, and then go from functional to destroyed in one person's lifetime. These kinds of Apocalypses happen quickly once it's time. And there are usually a decade of prophets warning the people to repent first. Or more. There is ample, clear warning.

So of course I had to start comparing to our own society, and I am disturbed by the results. We have evidence of every one of these things happening around us right now. People are seeking for power even at the expense of what is right, not just in our American government but in governments all over the world. There is increasing inequality, and the poor are suffering all over the world. I thought that people were not casting out the righteous and killing the prophets--I guess we're not there yet and I hope we never get there--but I realized that socially we are. Socially we are beginning to demean and belittle the righteous and rejecting the words of the prophets (or even their persons) and encouraging others to do so as well. Even members of the Church are doing this. Anger is rampant. Pride is encouraged and honored. Governmental norms and powers are breaking down at breakneck speed. At least we're still caring for children, right? That's what I thought at first, but then I remembered that I am still very upset about how immigrant children are being treated at our own border, being locked up and fed badly and denied access to health care, lawyers, clean clothes, sufficient food, asylum. We are sacrificing children for ideological goals. Just like every society that is destroyed. I'm not sure I would know about secret combinations, but President Benson is often quoted by my friends saying that they exist all around us. Satan has put out so many conspiracy theories that the real secret combinations are likely impossible to detect from among all the fake ones.

Nonetheless, it appears we are ripening for destruction. The markers are here, all around us. And it's happening rapidly, within my lifetime.

There are cases of people turning and not being destroyed. Limhi's people, for example. They were threatened with destruction and only a record would remain, and they suffered a lot and repented. Does that mean we are in for a lot of suffering? I hope not. I fear perhaps.

But, I told myself, we have not been warned clearly and explicitly by the prophet and apostles, right? And people are always warned first before they are destroyed. But then I remembered this paragraph from the Proclamation on the Family, "we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." This is a document that has been widely ridiculed and rejected by a handful of vocal, energetic members of the Church who are also actively rejecting the prophet and encouraging others to do likewise.

I'm sure if people do not repent, there will be more and clearer and more explicit warnings. It seems that God does not destroy people without many, repeated, very clear warnings first. The scriptures talk about prophets (not just "a prophet") coming for years to warn people before things fall completely apart. And how the government handles those prophets foretells the outcome--if the government protects them and allows them to speak, usually the people come around, but if the government silences them and punishes or executes them, the people do not. I guess this is why it's so very, very important to choose good leaders, but that is not the focus of this particular bit of writing. Although King Mosiah II does warn, pertinently, "Now, it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right, but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right. Therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law: to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you, yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."

I am busily compiling a document exploring the actual teachings that are presented by Korihor, Nehor, and others in the scriptures that lead to these destructions as a way to help myself identify them in modern life.  I hope to be able to share what I find at some point. But I did want to get these general markers written down and shared first so I don't forget them.

The thing that is most hopeful to me, personally, is that I know many good people who are not seeking to get gain, who do care for the poor and needy, who love and protect children, who embrace the righteous and the prophets and reject anything even hinting of secret combinations. They are people who reject anger, contempt, and disdain, who are humble and good people who love others and work to keep the world wonderful, the governments stable, families safe, and rightness and goodness growing. As long as we have wonderful, righteous people among us, all is not lost. And we do. Many, many, many of them from all faiths, all backgrounds, all walks of life. The world might be ripening, but not all the people are. There is much good to be found everywhere you look, and this gives me hope.

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