I Don't Like Come Follow Me

I never have. And I haven't been able to articulate why until I tried to buckle down and start with the Book of Mormon this year.

The first paragraph of the first section for 1 Nephi 1-5 ends with this sentence:

"Overall, there is power in this imperfect family’s examples of faith."

I was rocked by that a little bit the first time I read it.

I thought to myself, "Wow. Are we really going to confront the hero worship and unhealthy worldviews our community has internalized about this book because of the way the negative behaviors of the characters are never challenged or confronted for what they are? That many of the details are included because they're cautionary tales about what NOT to do, but you'd never know that based on how the material is presented and talked about by our people at large because the conversation is driven by the needless compulsion to focus on the same tired perspectives of faith promotion that the subjects sometimes don't deserve?"

Then I read the section, which is full of the same "I will go and do" about Nephi that they always do, without once confronting the conflicts, doubts, and struggles of anyone but Nephi in any serious way, some of which are exacerbated (if not cause) by Nephi being insufferable and self-righteous to everyone around him.

Nephi is an unreliable narrator, y'all. You're not supposed to believe everything he says, thinks, and does. Especially when he's younger. His view of the people around him and their motivations lack depth because he was totally unconcerned with their feelings and struggles. He was bad at helping and honoring people in their darkest moments, having nothing better to offer them for support than glib and shallow assertions that they would be struggling less if they were more like him. An attitude he learned from his father's blatant and unapologetic favoritism.

Nephi is not an example of what to do when there is conflict in your family. And it takes him until "O wretched man that I am" to realize he's not the most important man in every room. His disrespect for other people in his leadership is the reason they want nothing to do with him, and it takes him a lifetime of chasing people away from God to realize he's not as good of a person as he thinks he is. He has failed people from his need to be seen as being better than he is, better than everyone else is at loving God and knowing what that means. And this becomes a cultural artifact, a baked-in foregone conclusion in the minds of his people that ends up shaping their self-perceptions until it destroys them. His personal failures, viewed for their long-term ramifications and consequences, is part of what this book is supposed to be about.

But sure. Let's do "I will go and do" again, without pondering in any serious way if Nephi's interpretation of his interaction with the Holy Ghost might be lacking in credibility because the alternative is to say something closer to "We really botched this job and killing Laban was not a forgone conclusion or a necessary evil that I can acquit myself of because God said it was okay."

Maybe we don't have to believe that. Maybe we can examine how our culture in the modern church has perpetuated this same logical fallacy with vigilante violence, justified by appeals to this exact story.

Point being, never read the story of Nephi without keeping it firmly fixed in your mind that he's going to regret and repent of most of this later. That cross reference to 2 Nephi 4 is probably the most important thing you can have in your margins every time he says or does something totally uncalled for.

"He Lives to Hear My Soul's Complaint"


The idea that complaining is a moral failure is ridiculous. The fact that only women get this kind of criticism for it, even when they don’t deserve it, is sexist.

Why do I say that?

Because the two characters in the Bible who complain the most are David in the Psalms and Job, and never once have I ever heard anyone criticize them for complaining, even when they self-identify as complaining to God. But no one hesitates to say that about Job’s wife and Sariah.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about what the difference is.

Link this together with the importuning widow, the woman who begged crumbs from the master’s table, and Hannah who said “Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.”

God doesn’t care that we complain when we take our complaints to him. That’s where they belong. And the idea that trusting God and not complaining are mutually exclusive is a total misread of so many scriptural accounts.

To police the emotions of women when they complain, to label it as lacking faith, is abusive behavior that denies the faith out takes to formulate that dissatisfaction into words.

To say to God “I want—I deserve—better than this” is an act of faith.

Let women in Scripture teach you this lesson.

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