From the Archives: King Benjamin Killed God

This is a repost from four years ago. I was reminded of it and thought it worth rereading. Original with comments here.

Jesus set up an impossible paradox when he explained that the two great commandments are to love God and to love one’s neighbor (though he was not the first to summarize the Law in such a way). The problem is that one simply cannot do both, as Jesus himself elsewhere noted that one cannot serve two masters.

King Benjamin saw the impossible tension between these two contradictory commandments and attempted to resolve it by collapsing them into one single ethical imperative. He said: “when ye are the in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mos 2:17). The attempt to equate the love of God and the love of neighbor as simply one ethical imperative elides the problem of having two competing duties. The problem (or promise, depending on your perspective) with such a position is that the duty to love God cannot possibly come into conflict with the duty to love one’s neighbor.

Setting aside epistemological issues raised by Kant that result in Neitzsche’s proclamation that God is dead, there is another element here, namely, the teleological ethical imperative of modernity. For Kant, Hegel, and others, there was no possible justification for the suspension of the ethical. In this view, one’s God is one’s neighbor, and the ethical is the divine.

This is the problem that Kierkegaard tackles in Fear and Trembling. He suggests that Abraham discloses the tension between love of God and love of neighbor when God asks him to kill his son. Kant is very clear here that this is a violation of ethics and that Abraham was not justified in his obedience to God’s “supposed” command. Kierkegaard, in contrast, asserts that the duty to God is higher than the ethical duty, and if not, then God is simply an abstraction of ethics. (In a way, this remains the theoretical problem of the Social Gospel to articulate a basis for ethics that is not identical to a secular basis). He suggests that either Abraham is really the father of faith, or he is a murderer. If one holds the point of view that God is ethics, then the latter is the only option.

King Benjamin is not willing to concede this tension. Along with Kant and Hegel, he sees the ethical as the divine and categorically prohibits God’s command to contravene the commandment to love one’s neighbor. He must, therefore, reject Abraham’s faith, for if Abraham’s faith is correct, then so is that of the suicide bomber and the Laugherty brothers, both of who see God’s intervention in the world in such a way that supersedes the ethical. If by “God” one means something other than the commandment to love one’s neighbor, then this God can only ask that if you follow him, you must hate your father, mother, brothers, and sisters. King Benjamin killed this God before Kant did.

  • Abu_Casey

    I’m stuck on this sentence: “The problem (or promise, depending on your perspective) with such a
    position is that the duty to love God cannot possibly come into conflict
    with the duty to love one’s neighbor.” Do you mean this ironically or not? If it’s ironic, the irony isn’t clear, since it seems that you mean exactly the opposite of what you say. If it’s sincere, then it seems to undercut your point (unless I’ve grossly misunderstood what you’re trying to say). I take it that you want to argue (as you do in the rest of this post) that there IS a contradiction between loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Thanks for helping out!

  • Darren

    When did Abraham “hate” Isaac? Does this mean that the Father “hated” His Only Begotten Son?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Generally, when someone says, “I love you,” while holding a knife to your throat, it is not very convincing.

    More seriously, the point is that loving God an loving one’s neighbor, in Abraham’s case, his son, are commandments that stand in tension to one another in some biblical stories.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Casey, in that sentence I am describing King Benjamin’s collapsing of the two imperatives into one. If loving one’s neighbor is loving God, they do not conflict. If loving one’s neighbor and loving God are two separate commands, they may conflict. If they do not conflict, then God is just an ethical abstraction, according to Kierkegaard.

  • Wm Jas

    King Benjamin doesn’t say “only when ye are in the service of your fellow beings are ye in the service of your God”; he says “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

    The difference is important. Benjamin implies that all service to one’s neighbor is in fact service to God — but the converse, that all service to God is service to one’s neighbor, does not follow. The two duties are not identical; rather, one is a subset of the other. God commands us to serve our neighbors, but he also commands us to do other things. Serving others is one way of serving God, but there are other ways as well.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Do you think that King Benjamin imagines that serving God might entail harming one’s neighbor?

  • Darren

    “Generally speaking”, you’re correct but that’s actually the main fault of your logic. You are applying a general truth to a specific instance and making a judgment upon Abraham in his specific instance based upon a general truth. I think you should lay out the specific instance and make a judgment based of Abraham’s specific instance based upon the specific details of that instance.
    Here’s the story in its entirety (Genesis 22: 1-13):

    “1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 ¶And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the
    wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou
    fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”

    Not exactly dripping with seething hate there. In fact, the lord explicitly declared to Abraham that he, Abraham, loved Isaac. Do you suppose that God here is saying, “Abraham, hate your son whom you love and sacrifice him…”? The manner of dialogue
    also shows reciprocal tenderness between a father son. “My father, he said. Here I am my son”. Instead of “hate” I get a strong sense of love and thus Abraham being deeply troubled to do what the Lord commanded him to do. Here Abraham was tried in order to find out whom was Abraham’s master. That answer was clearly determined to be Jehovah.

    King Benjamin gave a great discourse to his people. In that discourse King Benjamin admonished his people to serve on another. As your thread shows, Benjamin links service one to
    another to being in God’s service:

    “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom;
    that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)”

    What you contend is that King Benjamin’s command is incompatible with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. I say not so much.

    King Benjamin places full glory and honor to worshiping and following God who would be the very Jehovah Abraham
    worshipped and followed. I think King Benjamin’s discourse should be seen in its own light and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac in its own light.

    While I have always seen Benjamin’s discourse as a great proclamation of service one to another ad thus service to God, Mark Alan Wright and Brandt A. Gardner make an exemplary case that King Benjamin was dispelling “myths” and perhaps even
    “rumors” within his own people, Jehovah’s covenantal people, that he, King Benjamin was a divine god as their king. It is curious, as Wright and Gardner point out, that King Benjamin began his discourse by saying:

    “10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. 11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength
    which the Lord hath granted unto me.” (Mosiah 2)

    Here King Benjamin explicitly declares himself a “mortal man” and nothing more. That he, as a mortal man, suffers just like anyone else. King Benjamin also renders due credit to God (Jehovah) for “suffering” him, king Benjamin, to be the people’s king after they chose him to be their king, and for having “preserved” him as their king in order to serve them. King Benjamin even calls Jehovah’s
    power “matchless” after what should be noted as King Benjamin declaring himself as nothing more than a mortal man. Wright and Gardner propose that what may have been happening among King Benjamin’s people (also Jehovah’s people) is syncretism. That they were blending the tradition, presumably Mayan tradition,
    of viewing their kings as divine. King Benjamin was likely cutting off that syncretism and affirming correct doctrine regarding God and man. For those convinced, and I am one of them, that the Book of Mormon setting took place in Mesoamerica, Wright and Gardner’s proposition goes far into filling in the cultural nuances behind King Benjamin’s speech. As King Benjamin put it, “And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any
    thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!” (v. 18).

    Wright and Gardner’s piece on Book of Mormon syncretism and King Benjamin’s discourse also helps, I think, fill in the perspective of service King Benjamin taught. We are to serve one another for we are all indebted to our Heavenly Father (Elohim) as mortals. That is God’s power which has preserved and prospered the
    people under King Benjamin’s rule.

    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-cultural-context-of-nephite-apostasy/

    King Benjamin, I think, taught the normal standard of serving one another. This, I think, is best seen as something we should do in our everyday lives. Contrary to this, Abraham being commanded by his “heavenly King” (Jehovah) to sacrifice Isaac as an anomaly. I think it was a divinely designed and intentional one, but an anomaly nonetheless. I do not recall anywhere else in the scriptures except perhaps one when Jehovah’s servant was to kill a subdued individual. That one instance was Nephi to kill Laban. In Nephi’s story we know that Nephi struggled with that command and in that story we know of a specific reason Jehovah commanded Nephi to kill Laban while Laban laid drunk before Nephi. That was to preserve a future nation which would be founded on the records Laban had in his possession and would previously not give up to Nephi. Even here, this is not a father killing a son, but like Nephi who struggled to know for certain it
    was God’s will (told to him by the Spirit) to kill Laban, why not apply the same standard to Abraham. Just because the Bible does not say he struggled with Jehovah’s command to kill Isaac does not mean we cannot nor should not view Abraham as having struggled with that command as did Nephi. Likewise, neither
    should we conclude that Abraham simply did what he thought was God’s will but, like Nephi, made sure that it was the will of God, or rather, God’s explicit command, to take Isaac and sacrifice him. Certainly Abraham was not willing to sacrifice Isaac because he hated Isaac. As pointed out earlier, we know explicitly that he loved Isaac. Nor did Nephi kill Laban because he hated Laban. Both Nephi and Abraham had to show who their masters were. They both chose Jehovah, the very God of Israel King Benjamin exhorted his people to love and serve with all their might. Thus neither King Benjamin, nor Abraham, nor Nephi served “two masters”; but one. I think trying to serve two masters is the
    impossible scenario Jesus taught to avoid and frankly it’s what I am seeing you purporting. That it is “hate” to kill someone else even after God himself tells you to do so. When God says do something than it is your choice which will show
    who your master is.

    As for serving God and man, I don’t think you do it equally despite their being connected somewhat. Yes, we are to be good one to another but you do not do something just because a mortal says to do it. Not so much with God. Should we kill our neighbor if we love them as we love ourselves? I think there’s an argument that no we don’t but doesn’t that change when God’s involved? God has purposes we do not always have a full comprehension of but He does require we follow him in faith and it is not nearly the same in which mortals we are to follow. For Abraham’s anomaly we read of a specific blessing to his specific event to sacrifice Isaac:

    “ 15 ¶And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the
    stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”(Genesis 22)

    Just like I fail to see this event repeated in any scripture (a father to sacrifice his son), I also fail to recall anyone else receive such a blessing in connection to his obedience to Jehovah and truly showing that Jehovah was Abraham’s master. In other words, Abraham’s anomaly was a specific event for a specific outcome of blessings. (Genesis 24 shows Abraham’s wife received the
    same blessings as Abraham). Abraham did serve others as manifested with allowing lot to choose which of the lands for his inheritance and without any fighting or quarrel, Abraham took the lesser of the two lands after lot picked the pristine land. Nevertheless, Abraham would serve Jehovah as master and to this there is no doubt. Rendering Jehovah’s commands as too burdensome or even immoral or even “hateful” only shows one chooses a different master, not the god of Abraham whom King Benjamin worshipped equal to that of Abraham.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Darren,

    Let us see if we can narrow this down.

    Do you object to Jesus’s saying that you must hate your relatives to be a disciple?

    (If so, take it up with Jesus).

    Or simply you do disagree with my usage of this saying of Jesus to illustrate the broader point about a tension between loving God and loving neighbor?

    (If so, explain how that saying does not mean what it says).

    Or do you just not think that Jesus’s saying applies to Abraham?

    (if so, my point is not really about exegeting Abraham, but about the tension in that story and in Jesus’s saying between the two great commands. I am arguing, along with Kant and Kierkegaard, that they story illustrates a conflict where Abraham must choose which duty is greater, love of God or love of his son).

    Or, do you object to Kierkegaard and Kant’s view that the Abraham-Isaac story shows that love of God and love of neighbor are in conflict?

    (if you have not read or understood either of these figures, I can see why you are not understanding my post. “Anomaly” or not is entirely beside the point [let's not elaborate the ethical problems in scripture where the only ethical principle is obedience at the cost of the life of others]. But you seem to concede my point that the two duties do conflict when you say: “Should we kill our neighbor if we love them as we love ourselves? I think there’s an argument that no we don’t but doesn’t that change when God’s involved?” Kant says absolutely not. Kierkegaard says absolutely yes. In both cases, there is a choice between those two duties-blessings are not really relevant to this).

    Those are the options that I see on Abraham.

    The tangent about whether King Benjamin’s people thought he was a God has nothing to do with this. The question is does King Benjamin think that serving God and neighbor are even in conflict. I think the answer is no, he does not.

  • Barfly_Kokhba

    Comparing Abraham’s faith to that of suicide bombers or the Lafferty brothers is only legitimate if one does not believe in actual divine revelation. Anyone can claim to hear God or receive revelation from God. I’m confused because you seem to be rejecting the premise that there does exist an an actual, personal God who can and does communicate–even if only rarely–with individuals, i.e. those who we call prophets.

  • Barfly_Kokhba

    Since the Scriptures with which I am familiar (the “Old” and “New” Testaments), not to mention the civil law code, contain numerous examples of just such an imperative, in various contexts, I can’t see why this King Benjamin fellow wouldn’t think so.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Barfly, the ethical question is entirely separate from whether God actually told Abraham what he did. If God did or did not say it, the tension between loving God and loving his son is exposed.

  • Barfly_Kokhba

    Yes, the ethical question is separate, and overall I enjoyed your post and your writing in general, but the comparison of Abraham to suicide bombers and the Lafferty’s is still spurious. Especially in the case of suicide bombers, who as far as I know don’t usually claim direct revelatory experiences as their motivation, but rather religious and political instruction and calculation. I am not familiar with the Lafferty case.

  • David_Naas

    As usual, I am late to the party, but, for what it is worth, my personal interpretation of the situation is as follows:
    We love God by loving others, we can only love others if we love ourselves; we serve God by serving others, we can only serve others as we serve ourselves; we are forgiven by God as we forgive others, we forgive others only if and as we can forgive ourselves. (Here, I use the definition of “love” as “willing the good of the Other as Other.” — Or is that too esoteric for anyone?)

  • Wm Jas

    I don’t know. If we take him literally, no.

    But my point is that even if serving God never entails harming one’s neighbor, God can still be more than a mere abstraction of ethics because he requires other things in addition to serving one’s neighbor.

  • Darren

    The tangent of King Benjamin goes far in placing into context what he was teaching. He was not a god but a man. As a man he is to love and serve others. This is the everyday duty of mortal men. According to King Benjamin, God is supreme, “matchless”, and he furthers this fact by exhorting his people to obey God’s commands. He even warns of eternal damnation for those who do not and eternal blessings for those who do.

    Here’s what Mathew 6:24 says about serving two masters: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

    King Benjamin taught we are all beggars before god and thus equally need God’s Atonement and that as beggars we should not judge one another (unrighteously) and serve one another. This all leads one to conclude that God was King Benjamin’s master. If God so commanded him to do something which would result in harming another person, he was one to do it. Why? Because God was his master. If King Benjamin considered man or another mortal his master than when God would command him to do something, he would either hate God or God’s command or despise it or God’s command. Likewise, if King Benjamin considered God his master than whenever God commanded to do something which would cause harm to another person he would hate or despise any logic or dictum which would admonish him not to do as God commanded. As you can see, thus scenario does not obligate anyone to hate another human being. A person can hate another, but that would be by his own choice, not by Jesus’ doctrine. Jesus never taught you “,must hate your relatives” to be His disciple. To the contrary: ” 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13).

    In fact, hate is not obligatory in Mathew 6:24. I find that verse simple establishing as a matter of fact that if one chooses man to be his master he will either “hate” or “despise” God and vice-verse that for those who consider God as their master will either “hate” or “despise” man who teach that which is contrary to God’s command / word. There is no obligation “to hate” in order to follow Jesus as one’s master.
    Abraham followed the pre-mortal Jesus YHWH / Jehovah when he was commanded by Him to sacrifice Isaac.

    You bet there were conflicting emotions running through Abraham’s mind and heart. I’d absolutely would have the same conflicting emotions and thoughts. But in the end, who would my master be? It would be what I choose to follow: do as God says or don’t do as He says for whatever, even including my deciding that I know better than God and hold myself to a high morality than God’s word. The latter would prove me to despise God. Following God’s command would show I despised the conflicting emotions / thoughts leading me to not to as He commanded.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Darren,

    It is difficult to converse with you when you simply ignore my efforts to clarify the matter and then repeat yourself.

    Here is the problem: You are arguing against two things at the same time. On one hand, you are arguing that there is no tension because God commands love of one’s neighbor, not hate. On the other hand you are arguing that there is a tension, but one should follow God when God commands us to harm another person. So, when I read you it appears that you are just trying to disagree with me rather than making a coherent argument.

    You also seem to be hung up on this idea of “hate.” I don’t really know where we disagree because you are asserting things rather than confronting the ethical argument. Perhaps you do not know the saying of Jesus in Luke 14:26: “”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”? Or perhaps you disagree with Jesus here? That is where I am getting this language from, and I think it pretty clearly illustrates my point that there is a conflict between the two great commands. Whether this passage explains Abraham-Isaac in a literal sense is not my point. I am using this saying and the Abraham story to illustrate the tension, and occasional contradiction, of trying to serve two masters-loving God and loving one’s neighbor.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Can you support that argument from the text of King Benjamin’s speech?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    Like what? Doesn’t this set up the issue of saying God is whatever those things are?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/ TT

    For suicide bombers, direct or indirect commands are not the salient issue (especially in a tradition that has a last prophet), but whether God has command it at all.
    Lafferty’s belong to a whole class of people who have received revelation to kill their family members. Phenomenologically it is no different from Abraham. Abraham’s defense would not hold up in a court of law either.

  • Wm Jas

    Like praying, keeping the Sabbath holy, not worshiping other gods, etc. — many of which don’t make any sense if God doesn’t actually exist as something other than a personification of ethics.

  • Darren

    The next verse in Luke says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” This command to “hate” applies to who one’s master is, not whom to serve. If we are to “hate” one another in order to follow Jesus in the manner which you are describing than would not that stand contrary to the verse I previously cited?

    ‘” 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13)’

    What I read is that we are to love one another in order to be Christ’s disciple. We are to “hate” when we are to choose between two masters. When we choose Christ as our master we love one another but whenever His command conflicts with human’s commands we are to hate or despise the latter.

    The LDS King James Edition footnotes Luke 24:26′s “hate with Mathew 10:37 which I think clarifies the meaning of Jesus’ doctrine “to hate”. Mathew reads, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” I disagree that we are under a commandment “to hate” in the sense you have outlined. It all boils down to “love” and whom do we love more when we have to choose between two master: God or man. Not only is this my position but I think the vast majority of practicing Christians interpret the scriptures this way. That does not necessarily mean they are right but I think they are with this one.

    As for Abraham, your original post reads, “Along with Kant and Hegel, he [King Benjamin] sees the ethical as the divine and categorically prohibits God’s command to contravene the commandment to love one’s neighbor. He must, therefore, reject Abraham’s faith, for if Abraham’s faith is correct, then so is that of the suicide bomber and the Laugherty brothers, both of who see God’s intervention in the world in such a way that supersedes the ethical.” I say that King Benjamin did not reject ‘Abraham’s faith’ but practiced it in a perfectly equal manner as did Abraham. Abraham did not “hate” Isaac. In fact, as I pointed out, the scriptures, the language you lift for your arguments, says that Abraham loved Isaac. It was God Himself which told Abraham as much. I see this as punching a big hole in your argument that in order to follow God we are obligated to hate. I also see that the collective understanding of the scriptures as that of loving one another in order to serve God. King Benjamin merely declared that explicitly so, and perhaps more clearly and plainly than any other ancient mortal prophet / king.

  • Darren

    “It is difficult to converse with you when you simply ignore my efforts to clarify the matter and then repeat yourself. ”

    Here:

    “Do you object to Jesus’s saying that you must hate your relatives to be a disciple? ”

    No, I do not object to Jesus’ teachings to “hate”. I object to your interpretation of what Jesus meant when he taught that doctrine. I also object to your application of that doctrine to Abraham. Your interpretation, I find, runs directly contradictory to what the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac actually says and your applying it to jihadism is absurd. Nobody, not traditional Christian or Orthodox Jew, interprets that anomaly in such a way. Jihad, as practiced throughout the world is precisely taking out revenge upon one’s enemies. That was not the case between Abraham and Isaac. Abraham was only being tried to prove who his master was and what Abraham choose directly affected his eternal blessings. His righteous choice greatly blessed him and you and I as well. jihad only brings death and destruction upon others.

    “Or simply you do disagree with my usage of this saying of Jesus to illustrate the broader point about a tension between loving God and loving neighbor?”

    Yes.

    “Or do you just not think that Jesus’s saying applies to Abraham?”

    They very much apply to Abraham.

    “Or, do you object to Kierkegaard and Kant’s view that the Abraham-Isaac story shows that love of God and love of neighbor are in conflict?”

    I do disagree that they present a conflict in the sense of full not being able to do both. I disagree that, ‘Jesus set up an impossible paradox when he explained that the two great commandments are to love God and to love one’s neighbor (though he was not the first to summarize the Law in such a way). The problem is that one simply cannot do both, as Jesus himself elsewhere noted that one cannot serve two masters.”. Choosing a master in the Judeo-Christian proxies do not conflict with loving one another. I fully recognize that God’s commands may generate conflicting feelings or thoughts but in praxy, they do not conflict. Choose God as one’s master and all else works out well. Such is what happened to Abraham and Isaac. by the way, I find Isaac also choosing God as his master and willingly submitted to God’s will. Things worked out well for him as well. The blessings of Abraham which he obtained by way of obeying God’s command, were renewed with Isaac.

  • Joe Spencer

    Provocative post, TT. I’m sorry I missed it the first time around. That said, I think there are some serious problems here.

    First, the interpretation of Benjamin’s text is too quick. How does Benjamin lead up to Mosiah 2:17? How does he follow it up? How does it fit into the larger frame of his discourse? How does it fit into the larger frame of the Book of Mosiah? How does it fit into the larger frame of the Book of Mormon? Does anything in the context—local or global—justify the claim that Benjamin had this sort of tension in mind or that he meant to speak to it specifically? Apart from context, isn’t it too quick a leap from the strict logic of Benjamin’s words (if x, then y) to your appropriation (x = y)? Is it so clear that there’s no other possible interpretation of Benjamin?

    That’s, of course, just to raise interpretive questions, and not yet to address the philosophical and theological issues you’re raising, but I’m wary about mobilizing Benjamin into a Kantian position without a bit more nuance of interpretation. Kierkegaard was infinitely more careful about Genesis 22 and the Gospel texts he used for his argument—not to mention the complexity introduced into his argument by the use of pseudonyms, etc. Doesn’t Benjamin deserve a closer reading?

    Coming more directly at the philosophical and theological issues, I find myself unconvinced that you’ve really clarified the basic question. Kierkegaard’s argument concerns the impossibility of total legalism, the indiscernibility of faith and sin, and the pathos of the Abrahamic situation. I don’t see any of that getting a hearing here. It’s a straw-Kierkegaard that’s being beat up here—I suspect intentionally. Why, though? What of Kierkegaard’s more complex claims? Are you interested in advocating total legalism, the discernibility of faith and sin, the irrelevance of Abrahamic pathos? I’m not sure I see any particularly strong reasons for accepting any of those implications, so I fail to see the strength of the argument. At least as yet….

  • Clark Goble

    Contextually Benjamin faced wars and other conflicts. (See Words of Mormon 13-15) I suppose we can debate who is a neighbor and what it means to harm a neighbor. But in any case Benjamin seems more complex than suggested. The problem of violence is key to the story of Abraham and any attempt to pit Benjamin in opposition to that violence has to consider his culture of violence.

  • elnathome

    TT… I believe you are taking that scripture out of context. Christ said if you worry more over your flocks or family and love them more than you love Him than you are not His disciple. And the “mammon” spoken of was regarding loving riches more than Him.

  • elnathome

    Again, loving yourself, your loved ones, your riches and belongings MORE than God is the problem.

  • Dennis Decker

    Between Darren and TT, I am more persuaded by Darren.

    When Benjamin says that by serving your neighbor you are only serving God, he does so in the context of those two commandments; he is showing how the second law subordinates to the first. We could further parse it out like this:

    If you do good to men, and they like it, you are only serving God, and shouldn’t boast about your service. (King Benjamin’s main point).

    If you do good to men, and they despise you for it, you are serving God, and he will reward you for it. (In the Beatitudes)

    If you do harm to men, and they love you for it, God will still punish you because you are violating his laws. (Nehor, Korihor)

    If you do harm to men, and they hate you for it, you have your just reward. (the Nephites who lust for Lamanite blood)

    If you have no desire to do harm, but God requires it, you are justified (free from sin) because you are only in the service of your God. However, you do not have any reason to boast (Capt. Moroni).

    Interestingly, all of these scenarios are exemplified somewhere in the Book of Mormon. Apparently the interaction of these two laws is important to understand.


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