The Greek historian Herodotus described an interesting wedding custom in ancient Babylon.
Each year the most beautiful woman in each village was auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the proceeds were used to provide for the poor. (Herodotus, Book 1, Lanham, Maryland, 1986, pp. 186-187).
(Talk about a beauty contest I wouldn't want to win.)
Hey, at least the Babylonians cared for the poor, right?
Well, that's a good point. What should we learn from this practice?
For one thing, the folks in Babylon used their religious tradition to justify human trafficking as a form of good works.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over Babylon; for no man buyeth their merchandise anymore: The merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet . . . and slaves, and souls of men.
The Point: Babylon doesn't do things that seem "evil" ― Babylon makes things that are evil appear good. How else would Babylon get us to embrace "abomination?"
Starring . . . the Bride of Babylon!
Babylon builds the most beautiful temples.
Where else would the bride of Babylon get married, but in a temple worthy of her beauty and greatness? A magnificent edifice that reflects her position at the top of the hierarchy?
I mean, it's time we stop thinking of Babylon as a drunk john lying in a pool of vomit in some back alley in Amsterdam strewn with dirty needles and STDs.
Because Babylon is beautiful.
On the outside Babylon appears clean and holy. (That's how she entices us to come in.)
Looks can be deceiving.
Babylon is the False Image of the Bride Zion
We know Zion is depicted as a Bride. And so, of course, Babylon styles herself that way, too.
Babylon is the archetype of all false religion. She appropriates the customs, dress and language of the Bride Zion.
And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon.
(Talk about "cultural appropriation.")
What Does "Abomination" Look Like?
When we picture what "sin" looks like, do we imagine vices that are puss-filled, pox-marked, piss-smelling, putrid-looking, and poisonous?
Yuck! Those things are a real turn-off, Tim!
The devil knows. All the worst sins, the devil knows, are gilt with gold. They shimmer like silver. They repose on scarlet cushions in the image of respectability and religiosity.
And king Noah also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold.
The best way to deceive the "very elect" (if possible) is to make them feel at home: in comfortable chapels that serve as prisons ― in religions that draw away from the pure gospel of Christ ― manifesting a form of godliness without the power thereof ― promoting a form of righteousness shaped by status.
In other words, the land of Babylon is filled with beautifultemples that serve as traps.
Let's Repeat: Babylon is the False Image of the Bride
One of my favorite stories from Greek mythology is the tale of Narcissus.
When Narcissus was born, the seer/prophet Tiresias prophesied that Narcissus would live a long life only if he never "discovered" himself. ("He that finds his life shall lose it.")
One day while he was hunting, Narcissus grew thirsty and the goddess Aphrodite lured him to a pool where he leaned down and saw his reflection in the water.
He saw in himself the bloom of youth and the picture of perfection. Not realizing he was looking at himself, he fell deeply in love with his own image and refused to leave.
Narcissus died by the pool of water. He could not abandon his love. For himself.
Tragically, he trapped himself in his own image.
This describes Babylon.
Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
One More Time: Babylon is the False Image of the Bride
Okay, I think we're getting the idea that Babylon the Great is . . . great! She looks amazing. She has killer style. She is something we praise. She is someplace we want to be. She is someone we want to belong to. She is a religion that the we admire.
It's kind of like the way John the Revelator imagined the Anti-Christ: not someone with horns and black mascara torn from the cover of a heavy metal album, but someone who appears like Christ ("Christ-like").
As the Bible Dictionary states, Antichrist is "A word used by John to describe one who would assume the guise of Christ but in reality would be opposed to Christ."
Babylon (and its Great and Abominable Church) offers something called "carnal security."
And others will [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-- and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
(2 Nephi 28:21)
So What is "Carnal Security?"
Carnal security was coined by Nephi to mean the false assurance that we belong to Zion; it is the assurance of salvation based upon one's status.
"All is well," you see, because we don't need to actually be holy as long as we hold the right memberships, the right recommends, etc. Because God will save us as long as we have been initiated into "Zion."
Sure, God may beat us with a few wet noodles at the last day, but He will save us regardless of our sins because we belonged to His church, or we went through His temple, or we received His ordinances, or made special covenants.
Unfortunately, we notice (if we look closely) that the Great and Abominable Church has changed, added to, and subtracted from, the conditions of salvation.
So what is the new name-of-the-game? Well, anything other than the pure gospel given by Christ.
In other words, anything that will externalize our pride and make us idolaters.
And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity;
They shall go with their flocks and with their herds [this is religious imagery] to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
Is history repeating itself?
Why do people follow false prophets?
Why are false prophets credible?
What is appealing about their message?
I think we need to recognize the fact that false prophets are . . . prophets. They look like, sound like, walk like, act like, and are viewed as . . . prophets!
So how do we discern a true messenger of God from false prophets?
If a man shall come among you and shall . . . say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes . . . ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
Yea, ye will lift him up, [give him status] and ye will give unto him of your substance . . . because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well.
There is that phrase again; the same phrase Nephi used: "all is well."
The temples of Babylon are external monuments to man's works: modern examples of the tower of babel from which prophets proclaim, "All is well."
Christ warned us:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine . . . And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation.