Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From My Journal - On the Colonization of America (8/22/07)

I’ve been reading my history book about the colonization of America and it seemed to me that a great bit of emphasis was being put upon the cruelty and sneakiness of the colonizers, that they were being demonized, while the Indians were being canonized as innocent victims. This seemed hardly fair to me, because I knew very well that both sides had their faults, but it seemed to me that the Europeans’ faults were being compared with the Indian virtues and the Indian faults were being minimized.

Fortunately, the Lord helped me out by pointing me to 1 Nephi 13 where Nephi has his vision of the history of the Americas. Nephi was told by the angel as he watched the Europeans come over to the Americas that the wrath of God was upon his brethren. That explains the treatment that the Indians got. Now, since we know God to be good and unable to countenance sin of any kind, and that he raises up the nations of the righteous and destroys the nations of the wicked (1 Nephi 17:33-39,43), it must follow that the Europeans, for all their faults, were more righteous than the Indians in some way. It perhaps came from two different things—that the Indians had embraced great religious error at which the Lord was angry, and that the Christian Europeans at least knew the God they worshipped.

Now, that does not mean that the Christian Europeans were as righteous as they could have been. The history books today make a huge deal about how cruel and superstitious and dogmatic and intolerant both Catholic and Protestants were. And people reason from this, “They were getting their justification for it from the Bible! How could they?!” And of course today we have people saying, “Since they justified their horrendous actions using the Christian religion, Christianity must be a fraud.” But the blame is being put in the wrong place, as Nephi is told by the angel. The angel specifically points out that at first the Bible was pure and plain and full of the truth according to God, but that another entity got hold of it and took some important stuff out, and then passed it on, and that the result of the ravaged Bible was that “a great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them” (1 Nephi 13:29). Indeed, if truth is twisted or removed even a little it can be as harmful as complete lies. This has great implications. It implies that if what was removed was allowed to stay in, it would perhaps have made a big difference in how the Europeans had acted towards each other and to the Indians.

I used to wonder just what that stumbling was that the angel was talking about, but now I know. It means they made great mistakes in how they thought, and acted, and instead of acting the right way, they acted wrong, while still thinking they were right. They came to the terrible and unwarranted conclusion that hating sin meant you must hate the sinner as well and that in acting against the sinner any means were justified. The kings also had the gaul to give land grants for land that wasn’t actually theirs to give, under what logical assumption I don’t know. How else can you explain how Europeans justified themselves in taking over Indian land with little or no compensation? There’s no other way of describing it, but as a great mistake committed over and over again.

I notice that we ordinary mortals are expected to acquire land fair and square by paying for it or by gifting it to each other, and the Lord likes to follow these rules when people are equally good and honest, but He is not limited to them when any of the parties are full of shinnanigans.
The Book of Mormon is plain that the Lord is the one who gives and takes away land, because it all belongs to Him anyway. This is, of course, annoying to a secular society, because it is so used to the idea of leaving God out of the equation, and if you must bring God into matters of real estate, it would be really nice if God would just justify you in taking someone’s land away from them. The scriptures say that the Lord uproots a wicked people and plants a righteous people in their stead. Thus a sneaky churchman might be tempted to demonize the guy whose house he wants to steal. (We find that this may have been part of the Mormons’ trouble in Missouri.) However, we see that THE LORD allows the wicked to punish the wicked. We can perhaps see the hand of the Lord when we look into mass movements of people. The Lord helps righteous peoples defend their property from encroachers, and allows the groups who have sinned past the day of grace to lose their property. By this reasoning, it is plain that the Latter-day Saints were perhaps not as good as they should have been, since they were driven so often. (Certainly the Lord chastises them in the Doctrine & Covenants for their wickedness and warns them they will be afflicted because of it.)

Keep in mind that I am speaking of the aggregate here, about large groups of people, not individuals. Individually there are exceptions, but the spiritual effect is the same. Heavenly Father is merciful and He may allow some evil-loving individuals to keep their property in order to give them even more time to repent, or He may cause their property to become a curse to them. Heavenly Father may also uproot wonderful individuals in order to bring them to a better land than the one they are in.

Of course, all of the above reasoning may have faults here and there. It is natural for a believer in God to want to defend “the way things happened” as being according to God’s will and try to reason out why. What gives me comfort is that what happened to the Indians was foreseen many hundreds of years ahead of time, and the reason for it was already given by an angel as “the wrath of God”. This is reasoning from a better source than a scholarly historian. It is difficult to argue with a reason when an angel gives it.

Now, lest people jump on me for bagging on Indians, I can also say that we Gentiles—that’s what Nephi calls us of European extraction—will take our own turn at being driven and afflicted if we don’t repent, because Christ warned of this:
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.
And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.
But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel. (3 Nephi 16:10-15, emphasis added)
And further, Nephi hears about this sort of thing too from the angel.
And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish.
Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.
(1 Nephi 14:5-7, emphasis added)
Here we see that both captivity and destruction awaits even a free people if they do not repent. From what I can see in the world today, it starts with crushing debt and over-regulation and it just gets worse from there. Were there not a large number of people lifted up in pride to the point that they overpriced their houses and overbought? There was certainly a lot of lying and deceit about income when trying to qualify for loans. There was a lot of lying and deceit about the terms of loans. There's even some murder and revenge.