God and Tragedy

This is my response to a Facebook discussion about why bad things happen to good people.

Let’s dissect this argument. First, the only “tragedies” that catch our attention are the ones hyped by the press. Are the untimely deaths of thousands who die of diseases and war on a constant, ongoing basis throughout the year any less a “tragedy” than a handful of people who are killed or injured in a single public spectacle? Is there any difference? And, since we pretend to know the mind and will of God when occasion suits us, are these two “tragedies” any different in the mind of God?

Second, does God really consider these “tragedies”? What is physical death to a being who is immortal, who sees from the viewpoint of eternity, and who knows that we as beings are just as eternal and immortal as he is? What would be the greatest tragedy to occur to humanity in the eyes of God? Without pretending to know, I would take a guess that spiritual separation for God, the second death, is even more far-reaching and a greater loss to both us and God than the first death. At the fall, mankind was separated from God. That was a tragedy, but did God do anything to stop it? No. And there’s your answer. God did, however, provide a means for mankind to overcome the effects of the second death, through the plan of redemption. And what does redemption mean except to restore a thing to its original stand, or in other words, to return mankind to the presence of God.

And, third, does the Creator (1) create, set things in motion, and let things take their natural course? Or is it necessary to (2) micro-manage that creation, overseeing every little aspect of it?

If (2) is true, then God becomes the effect of his creation. He is drawn in, locked down, and becomes part of that creation. Perhaps, even forgetting that he, himself, was once the creator. This is what happened to Michael, who helped form the earth, and we must consider ourselves to be, respectively, Adam and Eve.

Getting back to this question, which it should never occur to a person like Joseph Smith to even ask, to ask this question seems to me to presume that we have created God in our fallen image, instead of the other way around.

My Relationship with Christ

This is my response to a Facebook discussion about our evolving relationships with Christ. This was my comment.

I see him as a close friend and co-worker. He needs all of us as much as we need him. Without each other, we are incomplete. He is anxious to deal with each of us as equals. He’s not going to do anything for me that I can’t do or can’t learn how to do for myself. When he says “follow me”, he is not saying to blindly obey his instructions. He is telling us to become like him, walk the path he walked, learn the things he knows, and do the things he did — and greater.

Christ can honestly state that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He can also state “what manner of men ought ye to be, yea, even as I am”. We need to also progress to the point where we can honestly state that we are the way, the truth, and the life. He invites us to take upon ourselves his name, meaning the name of Christ. This is more than just saying you believe in Christ or calling yourself a “disciple”. This means that just as he progresses by lifting us up to where he is, likewise, we also progress by doing the works and speaking the words of Christ, and lifting others up to where we are.

When we do this, we establish a connection with Christ, himself. We literally become one with him and he with us, and one with all others who have likewise taken upon themselves his name. “Behold, all who know my power are one.”

Knowing How to Know

We are part of God and God is part of us. We are in God and God is in us. If you look for God where God is, not where God is not, you will find him, and know, not just believe, that God exists. And, what’s more, when you really know that God exists, you will have even more certainty that you exist, and that you are far more than you now believe yourself to be. After all, we are all Gods.

When you really come to know this, you will no longer feel the need to go church-shopping, in order to bolster your own weak beliefs by trying to find somebody else who agrees with you. Instead, you will seek the fellowship of like-minded individuals. At this point, the existence of God, the existence of an after-life, and the existence of parallel planes of existence will, in your mind, be answers, not questions.

Too Much Tolerance?

There are many virtues that at times seem contradictory to each other, but in fact, enhance and define one another. What we need to do is to BALANCE one virtue with another virtual, instead of balancing one virtue with its opposite. For example: Justice vs Mercy, Love vs Wisdom, Freedom vs Discipline.

Balance Tolerance with what? IN-tolerance? Would a self-proclaimed “apostle of Jesus Christ”, actually advocate intolerance? This seems to be the message we take away from Boyd K Packer’s recent rantings (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56116400-78/church-women-lds-mormon.html.csp) given both the context of his previous talks and writings and in the vagueness of his current pronouncements.

We should balance tolerance with discernment and judgment, but not with intolerance.

With apologies to FDR, the only thing worthy of intolerance is intolerance, itself.

Legalized Immorality

Recently, Boyd K Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, in a Conference talk April 2013, warned of the “tolerance trap”. Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, we must not carry it to extremes. I believe this is a fair and correct paraphrase of his remarks. Then he went on to imply that in the context of the pending U.S. Supreme Court’s pending ruling on marriage equality, too much tolerance leads to “serious spiritual consequences” and amounts to “legalizing immorality”

Let’s take a deeper look at whether marriage between two partners of the same gender or sex equals “legalized immorality”. And let’s use the words and doctrines of the LDS Church to do this.

Spoiler alert:

I am going to quote something to you from the LDS Temple Endowment. If this offends you, stop reading now.

However, these are words from a covenant which many of us have taken and are expected to covenant to live by. This is not any big secret, nor should it be. If you have not received your endowments, you have a right to know the nature of the covenants and obligations you will take upon yourself.
The church publicly teaches the Law of Chastity, and most of us understand what this entails. We are also told by church authorities that legalizing same-sex marriage is tantamount to “legalizing immorality”, because it violates the Law of Chastity. However, the true Law of Chastity is taught and explained in the temple endowment, and the specific wording of that Law is what we covenant to obey “before God, angels, and witnesses”.

So, is legalizing same-sex marriage, and thus making it possible for a man or a woman to be faithful to their “legally and lawfully wedded husband (wife)”, in reality legalizing immorality or, in fact, providing a way for people to obey this Law? Let’s examine the wording of the Endowment Ceremony:

Pre 1990
We are instructed to give unto you the law of chastity. This I will explain. To the sisters, it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your husband to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. To the brethren it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.

Post 1990
Footnote: The 1990 revision does not have women and men covenant separately to keep the law of chastity. Instead, women and men simultaneously covenant to have no sexual relations except with their “husband or wife” to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded. This revision was no doubt made to streamline the ceremony. However, the new wording has the presumably unintended consequence of bringing same-sex marriages–if legalized–within the pale of the law of chastity.

Source: http://www.ldsendowment.org/terrestrial.html

Therefore, a person could be legally and lawfully married to a person of the opposite gender, under the laws of New York, Washington, California, or any other jurisdiction that recognizes marriage equality, and live a monogamous and chaste lifestyle with his or her companion, and according to church doctrine, NOT be living in legalized immortality, Boyd K Packer’s absurd rantings notwithstanding.

And what about those who are in such marriages, but were previously prevented from doing so, and were forced out of necessity to live an immoral lifestyle?

For them, there is the principle of repentance. A person can recognize that he has sinned, make restitution, and promise to himself and God, not to repeat the offense. Or, in other words, stop being promiscuous, find a worthy companion, settle down, getting married and be monogamous.

There is also the principle that God has applied to His people in the past, where He commanded His people to do a thing, but were prevented by the legal authorities from doing so. Moses wanted to take the children of Israel out into the wilderness to offer sacrifice and serve God, but the pharaoh of Egypt would not prevent it. A little closer to the modern day was when the Mormons believed that God commanded them to practice polygamy, which they believed was a requirement for entering the highest degree of heaven, but were prevented from doing so by the U.S. government. Now, whether you believe in the story of Moses or that polygamy was divinely inspired, members of the LDS church, and most importantly, its leaders do.

These leaders should be versed enough in the Bible and in their own history and fair-minded enough to recognize the same principle here. But in this particular case, we have uninspired church leaders siding with the extremists in our government to prevent people from fulfilling his commandments.

D&C 121:16 Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

The Book of Mormon repeatedly references a people having “ripened in iniquity”, but what are the signs that a nation, a people, or a church has “ripened in iniquity”.

We hear these terms a lot in the Book of Mormon, but how do we know what a people or a church is “ripe for destruction”?

What has to happen before the Lord allows destructive forces to come in and effect a long-overdue cleaning?

Samuel the Lamanite has the answer in Helaman 13:14:

“But behold, it is for the righteous’ sake that it is spared.  But behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, that when ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction; yea, wo be unto this great city, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in her.”

This defines the point at which a city, a nation, or a church is ripe for destruction — when they cast out the righteous from among them. Could we say that the LDS Church has reached this point where they cast out the righteous from among them – good and faithful members whose only sin is thinking for themselves and questioning the established authorities?

Freedom, Free Agency, Freewill

I recently read a comment on Facebook to the effect that Free Agency was so important that a war was fought over it. This is in reference to the passage in Rev. 12:17. “And there was war in heaven …” LDS teachings tell us that in that war Lucifer sought to rob man of his agency.

Thanks to Strong’s concordance. “war” could also mean dispute, fight, or quarrel. But whatever you call it, the fight for freewill always figures someplace in the mix, though it may be disguised by other issues. And, nobody said the war in heaven was ever settled. It just moved to a new field of battle: here and now.

Most LDS incorrectly assume that agency was a gift given to us by God. This is not true. Man was in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created, neither, indeed, can be. Man was in the beginning with God. If there was any attribute that God possessed, man also possessed it. God, through the application of free agency, and the aquisition of knowledge developed into the position where he is today. If man is to achieve the same exalted status, it must be on the same principles. If not so, then God is not God, and we can never become gods, ourselves.

But, agency is not a “gift”. It is an inherent part of what we are. I suppose one could consider that it is a “gift” to recognize that freedom in others and allow them to enjoy it. But, to presume free agency is a “gift”, i.e. something that was given, it also to presume that it can be taken away. We can thoughtlessly allow others to take it away, but it can never be taken from us.

Don’t ever fall into the trap of being led to believe that your inherent freewill is a gift that can be given or taken away at somebody else’s pleasure. There is a war going on, and to surrender your free agency is to surrender in the war.