Like 750,000 other California Mormons, I sat amongst my fellow ward members in our local chapel today as our bishop read the Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families memo over the pulpit. He followed that by reading a memo outlining the church's views on political neutrality. He closed by asking each of us to ponder in our hearts in the coming days and weeks how we could best follow the prophet and implement his advice.
There was no discernable reaction from the congregation ?¢Ç¨Äú no murmurings of disapproval, nor whispers of agreement; no heads silently nodding in assent, or shaking with quiet displeasure. The subject did not come up in our Gospel Doctrine class, nor during our combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson. If there was discussion about the memo in the hallway, I didn't hear it.
My reaction? During the reading of the memo, and for most of Sacrament Meeting, my heart beat fast and my face slowly burned. What was my emotion? Anger? Disappointment? Sadness? Not really. Sure, I've felt those emotions with regard to this issue, but I've known about the memo for days, and I've always maintained a pragmatic, low-expectations approach to the issue: I'm optimistic that positive changes for Gays in the church will occur, but it won't happen overnight, and it will inevitably come about via the stumbling two-steps-forward-one-step-back process. This was yet another proverbial step back.
So if I wasn't feeling noticeable anger or sadness, why was my heart thumping like a pair of shoes in a Whirlpool washer-dryer?
It took me a few moments, but I finally realized what it was: Impotence. I wanted to do something, I wanted to say something. But do what? Say what?
According to Menlove:
In this story, the final performance appraisal reduces all criteria to compassion. There is not a whisper about creeds or doctrine. There is not a word about cursing, or attendance at church meetings, or homosexuality. Nothing about fame, knowledge, or fortune. It is so simple it's scary.
Actually, that's not quite correct. It does not simply reduce to compassion. The difference between the sheep and the goats is action. It is compassion with action. The goats are goats because of inaction. They did nothing. There is no indication they had hostility or any ill will. They didn't do anything wicked, they just failed to do good.
But the Bible is concerned not only with suffering but also with causes of suffering. In fact, it could be argued that 'the Bible is less concerned with alleviating the effects of injustice, than in eliminating its causes.' William Sloan Coffin puts it this way: 'Said prophet Amos, ?¢Ç¨ÀúLet justice' ?¢Ç¨Äú not charity ?¢Ç¨Äú ?¢Ç¨Àúroll down like mighty waters,' and for good reason: whereas charity alleviates the effects of poverty, justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it.'
It is a lot easier to talk about charity than about social justice. Social justice talk leads to political controversy. But ignoring social justice issues because they raise political issues is itself a very political position in favor of the status quo. We are called on to be more than an effective and compassionate ambulance service. It is important to save poor orphans from burning buildings, but it is also vital to work toward a society where orphans are not poor and buildings adhere to fire codes.
In other words, as followers of Jesus, we are called not only to care for those who are suffering, but also to transform the conditions that bring about suffering.
Postscript, July 18, 2008:
I had a wonderful meeting with my bishop last night.?Ç¬ I told him I wanted to focus on the needs of our Gay brothers and sisters, and the feelings for Members who might not agree with the Church’s stance on this issue, rather than the political, social, or religious pros and cons of Gay Marriage, or the very complex nature of sexual attraction.?Ç¬
I’ll keep the rest of our meeting private, except to say that I think we both felt uplifted by the conversation, and that he appeared to be very touched by my “Care Package” (which included everything listed above, plus Carol Lynn Pearson’s “No More Goodbyes“).?Ç¬
He closed by thanking me again, and saying,?Ç¬”I wish every Bishop had a Matt Thurston in his ward.”?Ç¬ Ha.?Ç¬ That made me smile.?Ç¬ Not that I doubted his sincerity for a moment, but that was one of those “Was that a compliment… or not?” statements. 🙂
I would love to offer my personal understanding, but be prepared to hear some things that may seem to be contradictory to what you have heard or learned before.
First, allow me to share my gay son’s story.
My only son (and first born of 5) was born with minor defect in his intestines that nearly killed him at age 6 weeks. He died twice in the ER, but a vigilant RN was able to revive him. It was touch and go for about 10 weeks, during which time my wife and I learned the importance of developing faith in Jesus and having sincere communications with Heavenly Father.
Our son grew up as the kind of young man every mother wishes her daughter would marry. He was a tall, handsome young man, with straight A’s in AP classes, good at sports, and student body president his senior year of high school. He was the kind of kid who wouldn’t hurt a soul or say a hurtful thing to anyone. When he went on his mission, he had at least 20 girls who wanted to wait for him.
On his mission, his president sensed his special ability to relate to and help others, so for the first 15 months he was made companions with only “troubled” missionaries. The last part of his mission was as the assistant to the president (AP). Upon his release, his president wrote to us in a letter that he was perhaps the best missionary they had ever had the privilege to serve with.
Then, when he came home, we though he would get married and start a family. But, that wasn’t to be because he was gay. He was under the (false) impression that if he worked and sacrificed for the Lord for 2 years, he would be healed. Years later he confessed to us that he knew he was gay from about age 5. He constantly had to hide who he was growing up. He even practiced “manly” speaking and mannerism in the privacy of his room.
For three years after his mission, he suffered because he was told, among other things, that he was NOT gay, but he was just being deceived. He was told God cannot love someone who is going to hell, so stop being so selfish. He was told that if he really wanted to bad enough, he could change and become heterosexual. These are the things he was told by his bishop and other priesthood leaders.
After 3 years of trying, fasting, praying, singing hymns, and every kind of reparation treatment imaginable, he gave up. He believed he had failed God, his family, and himself. When a person hears over and over just how terrible they are, eventually they begin to believe it. It was at this time that he began to try to kill himself through drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and self loathing. He moved to NY and left everything he loved behind.
We lost our son for a couple of years. He couldn’t stay in our home town. He couldn’t stay in the church because there was no place for him. When girls find out a boy is gay, they have no interest in him. When the boys find out, they would rather beat him up than be a friend.
If you have read this post this far, then I must say you are commendable. The a fore mentioned information is necessary, I believe, to understand what I have to say next.
After about 5 years of trying to help and counsel my son (after he finally came out to us), I began to wonder if I wasn’t going about this the wrong way. My intentions were to fix him – to follow the counsel of the church: gay is a choice, must live celibate, this is just a test, after all, homosexuality is an abomination before God!!!
It was at this time that I read the book called NO MORE GOOD BYES by Carolyn Pearson. It shares the stories of hundreds of gay LDS, who were shamed, ostracized, and left out of the protection of their families and the church. (I highly recommend this book if you really want to understand how gays are mistreated in the church.)
I realized that my son had experienced the exact same kind of mistreatment. Talk about a punch in the gut. I was determined to find out from Heavenly Father why this had to happen to my son. After all, I knew my son’s heart was pure!
After prayerful requests for understanding, I asked the following questions, and received answers, to which I attribute as personal revelations.
Me: Dear Heavenly Father, why is it necessary for my son to be gay?
I will share one answer (of many) that I received that night. I found it interesting that my answers came in the form of questions back at me, as if to say “Can’t you figure this out on your own?”.
HF: Would you have learned to love all people, even gays, if your son hadn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t agreed to it with me in the pre-existence?
Me: I doubt I could. (For 48 years I was very homophobic and wanted nothing to do with gays.)
HF: And now how do you feel about gays?
Me: I love my son now more than I could have imagined possible. And yes, I am more much accepting of others, including gays.
HF: Then, that is why your son is gay. It is for you. It is so I can show the goodness of God through you and him.
Me: But, are you OK with him being gay? Isn’t it wrong?
HF: Sid, I love you and your son more than you can ever know. And the only thing I ask of you both is that you use your love to help others become more like me.
There was a great deal more information I received, but I feel constrained to say no more at this time.
(Alma 10:9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.)
So, with this new understanding, I realized that God didn’t judge my son to be an abomination. He is loved just as he is – gay. And, if nothing more can be understood, we should at least do as Christ showed us time and again – do unto others as we want to be done unto us. It is not difficult to know how we should treat others.
You may ask how I am able to reconcile my beliefs when the prophets says things that are contrary? It is easy for me. I still have a testimony, and I love my membership in the church. But I also know that the leaders of the church are men, and are therefore subject to mistakes in judgment, often when they are based on traditions of the fathers (gays have not been understood by any previous generation.)
I believe the actions we as a church are taking toward gays people and their rights to marry in California are not following the spirit of the laws Jesus taught. We are commanded to forgive all. We are commanded to love all. We cannot tell one group of people that their pursuit of happiness is subject to a vote, when the motivation behind this action is based largely on fear and ignorance.
I believe the church leaders are making the same mistake they made back in the 50s and 60s when they opposed interracial marriage and civil rights for blacks. I would like to think I would have been against the leaders back then too, but I can’t say for sure. But I can say that this time I will error on the side of love, tolerance and protection of rights when it comes to the Prop 8 issue in California.
I can say this because of two things: First, my knowledge that God loves my son as he is. He will never force someone into submission to a law or commandment – that it Satan’s way of doing things.
Secondly, I know my son. There isn’t anyone I know who is more “righteous” then him. He lives a Christ-like life. He is now a doctor in NY who works with at-risk teenagers and their parents, who are dealing with same-sex issues. He couldn’t let the pain and suffering he experienced go to waste.
He has a boyfriend and he hopes to marry someday. (His boyfriend is also LDS and served a mission.) I only hope he is able to find the happiness he wants and deserves.
Not everyone can be straight. We should ask gays to live by straight rules. God doesn’t seem to mind as much as some people think.
God bless you all.
(Sorry this is so long. I have made a promise to Heavenly Father that I will help others learn of the truths that have yet to be revealed.)
Wish there was an edit feature. I meant to say…
We should ask gays to live by straight rules?
Here is a heart-felt letter written by parents to gay children to the First Presidency. It may give you a better insight to the things I have shared.
Again, thank you for sharing more of a very personal story-one that is painful and hard for you-I have learned much from you.
Where once you saw things “a certain way”, now you see them in “another way”, and two points of reference are always better than one when trying to understand truth. But how sure are you that what you “know” now isn’t just “more” than you knew before instead of being the “whole or complete truth”?
We learn line upon line, a little at a time. We don’t leap from being “completely wrong”-(as in your prior hard hearted feelings towards gays) to being “completely right”. You HAVE learned many great truths about yourself and your son, and about all mankind as children of God.
But nothing you posted above would be considered “hidden knowledge” or the “mysteries” of God. I was raised in the Church in a very LDS community and I’ve NEVER been taught or told that people who “sin” are an abomination, or that they should be shunned or that God doesn’t love them just as much as He loves people who do not sin. I’ve never read a conference talk or a gospel doctrine manual that stated such garbage either. In fact, they all speak the opposite, as do scriptures.
You ask “Not everyone can be straight. We should ask gays to live by straight rules? God doesn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t seem to mind as much as some people think.”
I respond-not everyone will be righteous-but God gives everyone the SAME RULES. Not every woman has the ability to carry and bare her own children-yet God has not changed the command to multiply and replenish the earth has He? Two good, healthy, straight, nice heterosexuals can live together and have careers and children and be the greatest neighbors in the world-and STILL be breaking God’s commandment regarding adultery.
No matter how well behaved and “good” and intelligent or beneficial to society WE think a couple and family is-WE do not get to define what marriage is-GOD already did. And until He sees fit to change that definition officially-WE have no business attempting to “correct” it.
God loves us one and all-good and bad-sinner and saint because we are His children. He will continue to love His children who obtain less and forfeit their blessings just as much as He loves those who strive to be obedient and obtain all that He has. He has the ability to LOVE us despite us. And while He commands us to “love the sinner” to “pray for our enemies” and to “do good” to those who use and abuse us, it would be a complete mistake to think that means that He also loves sin, enmity and abuse.
Since you’ve never heard someone say something like gays will go to hell, doesn’t mean it isn’t said. We often don’t hear things that don’t apply to us. But when it is spoken about us, we hear it. We hear it.
Yes, I am learning line upon line. Now it is time for you to learn “why there is a ‘need’ for gays on earth.” Then we can talk.
You are right to say that God loves us. But, what you believe to be sin isn’t necessarily what God knows to be as simple as a baby falling down the first step he takes. God knows we are all going to get it sooner or later. Not a big deal to a “true” father.
God has never defined marriage, unless you feel man actually speaks for God. Clearly man has gotten God’s words wrong many, many times. And the bible? You don’t even believe it contains truth (can’t cherry pick).
Stop trying to tell us what God thinks until you get your answers from the source. Until then, this discussion is going no where.
God is indeed the author and administrator of marriage and established the ordinance on earth with our first parents Adam and Eve. Has your “source” denied this or kept it from you? Perhaps you did not ask this important question?
Yes, I feel that God speaks THROUGH the men He selected premortally to be His voice on earth. And I believe the Bible to be the word of God every bit as much as I do any other scripture. It is an outright LIE for you to say that I “don’t even believe it contains truth”.
A good example of a “cherry picker” is someone who ignores or rejects all references to homosexuality being a sin (in both the Old and New Testaments)while at the same time admonishing others to read the parable of the good samaritan or reminding them to treat others as Christ did in the NT.
The “source” I go to in search of what God thinks is the exact same source that granted me a testimony regarding what God says and feels. My source is a God of order, and by His own decree, ALL things that are revealed by Him will always be in perfect harmony with His revealed scriptures and the words of His chosen prophets.
So I agree completely that if we aren’t using the same source, this discussion cannot and should not go any further.
“I respond-not everyone will be righteous-but God gives everyone the SAME RULES.”
What a beautifully stated pharisaical dictum. Thankfully, Christ dismissed blatant binary legalism (food laws, the Sabbath, Temple-centered laws). Through his example, Jesus provided a human, not a legalistic template on expressing compassion toward sinners; whereas your statement would have made the Pharisees proud.
Since within the LDS faith God’s immutable laws have shifted to meet cultural means, e.g. D&C 132, the painfully inaccurate literalistic interpretation of the Mark of Cain, to making revoked food laws a condition of salvation, makes your argument hollow and weightless. What other flexible tenets of God’s laws should we consider? Blood Atonement–let’s bring that once covenanted concept back into our kinder, gentler Mormonism. Sacrifice yourself for the restored Church of Christ. Jesus states there is no sin too great to be atoned for, except the unpardonable sin; however, Blood Atonement did not regard Christ’s sacrifice on the cross enough. Now, you need to take one for the team by taking your own life!
Michael Quinn’s research demonstrates that Joseph Smith was going to admit rescind his revelation found in D&C 132 before being killed. If Joseph Smith wasn’t certain of one revelation, then what other revelations was he unsure of? Nonetheless, God’s laws cannot be properly enforced if they continue to change under the guise of revised revelation.
Where can we find Michael Quinn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s research about Joseph Smith and his intent to “rescind his revelation found in D&C 132 before being killed.”
I have a question:
If god gives everyone the same rules, does god give everyone the same personal qualities to follow those rules?
In response to your question as to where Quinn’s research stems from, it is found in his book Mormon Hierarchy: Mormon Origins of Power. Quinn argues that in the last few days of Smith’s life, Joseph turned away from plural marriage and the secret temple ordinances (Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Mormon Origins of Power, 145-148).
Good question. However, I do not believe God gives everyone the same rules. Please let me explain why:
1) God’s rules have always been dynamic depending on when and where one lived.
2) God’s rules tend to be more an invention (interpretation) of man, mostly used to maintain control over other men. The more laws and rules man creates, the more criminals and sinners we find. Churches need sinners to fear God in order to sustain themselves.
3) The purpose of each life is not to master any one set of rules. Rather, it is to master the lessons we agreed to (with God in the pre-life) and prove to ourselves that we are ready to pass the test and move on to the next lesson. We don’t need to prove anything to God, for He always knows the outcome.
4) It is because each person has different lessons that we find so many different types of people and conditions (American, Chinese, black, brown, male, female, gay, straight, poor, affluent, dark ages, today, etc), each with different lessons to be learned.
I think a better question would be, “Do all of God’s children have the power to learn the lessons they chose in the pre-life?”, and to that I would have to say the answer is a resounding YES. Each of us is part-God, as He is the father of our spirits, and thus we have the power of God already within us. The challenge is learning how to tap into that power.
That is one reason why I believe it is dangerous for us to assume that God’s way is only ONE way – as most churches teach. Each person on earth is on a different path, and at a different degree or level of their eternal progression. That is also one reason why the scriptures tell us it is a “requirement” to forgive all people. A requirement is a stipulation that must be fulfilled in order to receive a special benefit. In this case, the benefit is forgiveness from God, and the right to move on to the next lesson. Progression is always conditional on passing our individual tests.
I find it interesting that so many people in the LDS church believe that it only takes one lifetime (a spot on the wall of eternity) to prove oneself worthy to become a God. To me, that is like saying to a child, “You have one chance to learn how to walk, and that chance is for today only.”
That is a hard concept to accept if we are to believe in a loving father in heaven. Without multiple opportunities to improve there is no such thing as eternal progression and Heavenly Father’s offspring are mostly failures. There are too many lessons to be learn and each one requires different contrasts to be experienced – hence the wide disparities of THIS earth.
So, no, I do not believe God gives the same rules to everyone, rendering the original question moot.
Just my humble “opinions” ;-D
It appears you have taken a little legitimate divine inspiration and molded it to fit your religious worldview.
I understand how you come to such conclusions but consider the notion that you might be operating on certain assumptions that inherently corrupt your search for truth and ultimate understanding.
In the divinely designed Game of Life there cannot be different rules for different people.
The game is all about one planet, one species and numerous variations of physical and cognitive characteristics and circumstances designed to test the integrity and compel the evolution of ones thinking and behavior. While our characteristics and circumstances are different the Game remains the same.
Ultimately there are only different interpretations of the nature of the Game which creates the illusion that there is only one way (which is the Church?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s position) or that there are a variety of games being played that have different rules (which seems to be your position).
Would you consider the possibility both are inaccurate?
Thank you for responding to my post. I feel these kind of discussions only help us to define our beliefs by helping to recognize the contrasts between different individuals’ beliefs, thus enabling us to see more clearly.
I would certainly consider the possibility both interpretations are inaccurate. In fact, I would suggest that each individual likely has a separate interpretation that is solely based on the emotions one feels. The greatest determination of individual truths seems to be the way one feels, assuming one is true to the feelings our conscience creates, i.e. our authentic self.
Perhaps the overall game has the same rules for each world, meaning there are basic rules that God requires from all children; honesty, kindness, etc. However, I also believe each individual has specific rules or lessons that are unique to the individual’s purpose for being on this earth.
For example, my son who is gay will certainly have different challenges (tests to be passed) than someone who lives a life of poverty. Both will need to be kind and honest toward others, but each person will also have their own rules, as decided by God, to follow if they are to pass this world’s test.
Likewise, a person living in 2000 BC China will have a different set of lessons compared to a anyone living in today’s world, and in my opinion that would include different rules.
Certainly you are correct in stating that my beliefs are based on personal (little) inspiration and experience, which is certainly skewed to my desires. But what belief system isn’t? Even a belief system that comes from a religious dogma is still based in some part on the teaching of the religion and the interpretations each individual feels good about. As a person’s experience progress, so might the understanding of that experience, resulting in a belief contrary to the original dogma.
Faith, I assume you have considered alternative interpretations and I would be interested in learning your experiences.
I would like to know why there cannot be different rules for different people in a divinely inspired game of life. To me that is like saying a native in Africa whose purpose in life is to protect his tribe from neighboring enemies is under the same rules as a single mother who is trying work and protect her children. Are you speaking of basic rules like being kind and honest, or something else like doctrines of a church (baptism, temple marriage, tithing, etc)?
I am considering rules that are requirements which will satisfy God that a person has fulfilled the measure of his creation, i.e. the reason he came to earth.
?¢Ç¨?ìWhat a beautifully stated pharisaical dictum. Thankfully, Christ dismissed blatant binary legalism (food laws, the Sabbath, Temple-centered laws). Through his example, Jesus provided a human, not a legalistic template on expressing compassion toward sinners; whereas your statement would have made the Pharisees proud.?¢Ç¨¬ù
Christ may have dismissed the way the Pharisees at the time were living the Mosaic Law, but while the law of carnal commandments and most of the ceremonial practices ended at the time of Christ, the Law of Moses also contained the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel and those have never been rescinded.
But I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m glad you brought up the Pharisees. The Pharisees were chastised by Christ most vocally for ignoring and condemning the authorized prophets and priesthood holders that God had ordained and sent to correct them. They had either ignored or done away with the most vital parts of the law (justice, mercy and faith) that God had revealed to His appointed prophet Moses, and they tried to convince others that visible, righteous looking actions indicated whether someone was righteous or not.
SO, a person that would make the Pharisees proud today might be someone who ignores the words of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s prophets (or considers themselves more spiritually in tune than they are, or claims to have knowledge that they don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t), who would pervert or twist God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s words and laws into something they like better, and would think that doing things that are visible to others (like attending Church meetings, the temple, service etc) proves that they are ?¢Ç¨?ìactive?¢Ç¨¬ù or ?¢Ç¨?ìfaithful?¢Ç¨¬ù members of the Church. Christ indicated that such people are filled with hypocrisy and deceit.
I agree totally that Christ taught us to be compassionate towards others, but the word compassion, especially as exemplified by the Savior, involves far more than you allude to.
First of all, there is absolutely no evidence of Christ seeking out the company of, or remaining in the midst of real, actual, true sinners, especially those who were unrepentant. Some of his disciples or followers were considered to be “sinners” by the Pharisees or other locals, but that does not mean that they actually WERE sinners.
In the case of the woman taken in adultery, he tells her to “go (not stay) and sin no more”. He doesn’t tell her that she wasn’t sinning or support her in continuing to break a commandment. Christ said repeatedly that He came to ?¢Ç¨?ìcall sinners to repentance?¢Ç¨¬ù and that He came to heal the spiritually sick because the spiritually whole “need no physician”.
Compassion without the accompanying desire to alleviate what is causing the suffering is only empathy. Expressing REAL compassion towards someone who is physically in pain or agony includes desiring to bring them first aid and pain relief and doing so if one has the means necessary. Likewise, REAL compassion towards those who are spiritually hurting or suffering includes desiring to bring them spiritual aid and relief and doing so if one has the means.
So don’t tell me your compassion towards “sinners” is on par with the Savior’s unless you are offering ALL of the same things to them that He would and did.
?¢Ç¨?ìSince within the LDS faith God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s immutable laws have shifted to meet cultural means, e.g. D&C 132, the painfully inaccurate literalistic interpretation of the Mark of Cain, to making revoked food laws a condition of salvation, makes your argument hollow and weightless.?¢Ç¨¬ù
You seem to be confused about how God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s ?¢Ç¨?ìimmutable laws?¢Ç¨¬ù operate. God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s WHOLE law is made up of lesser laws and greater laws, and He can require one at a specific time and not at another WITHOUT changing any of the actual laws themselves. In other words, while CONDITIONS can and do change (are mutable) God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s power and authority allows Him to invoke and revoke (or interchange) His laws at His perfect discretion.
This applies for example to the new and everlasting covenant described in D&C 132. It restored a form of marriage that is eternal in nature (rather than mortal and temporary in nature)that had been established by God during certain periods of time to suit His purposes. God also later halted the practice again.
Because our Father is a God, He actually knows what is best for us and what is not, saw the end from the beginning and wields His authority in perfect righteousness at all times. Gods get to do that. The only thing WE get to do is decide is whether or not we are going to accept and live whatever law God has in operation currently. THAT is why a knowledge of who and what God really is, and then placing our FAITH in Him is so vitally necessary.
With a higher law, such as the one established by Christ Himself, came a higher standard of living, not a lower one. A perfect example is in the Sermon on the Mount where Christ refers to the old law by saying: ?¢Ç¨?ìYe have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.?¢Ç¨¬ù We see that under the Law of Moses that to be an adulterer, one had to commit a physical act, but under the new law, one?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s lustful thoughts could be considered as equivalently sinful. Where much more is given, much more is expected in return.
If you prefer to put your faith in what Michael Quinn has to say about Joseph Smith or the laws of God rather than on what God or His chosen prophets have to say, then so be it. If what you gain in exchange for your faith satisfies you or brings you lasting happiness, then I will be happy for you as well.
“They had either ignored or done away with the most vital parts of the law (justice, mercy and faith) that God had revealed to His appointed prophet Moses, and they tried to convince others that visible, righteous looking actions indicated whether someone was righteous or not.”
This may have been the most confused theological statement ever made. From which context are you referring? It sounds like 19th Century redaction instead of an attempt to understand the Pharisees in their native 1st Century context. In each Gospel, the Pharisees are characterized differently. Each of the four gospels address a different audience. In Matthew’s Gospel–written for a Jewish audience–the author characterizes the Pharisees far more harshly than Luke’s. In John’s Gospel, Jesus befriends Nicodemus and discusses the Torah, where he demonstrates a traditional understanding of the law, yet fails to understand Jesus’ radical notion of the presence of God’s Kingdom being present on earth. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Pharisees are protecting the Torah as Jesus hurls one antithesis after another at it. Yet, where was the Levitical priesthood mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel? Where did the Pharisees condemn the past prophets? Thus, when you make a general statement that Christ chastised the Pharisees for ignoring and condemning the authorized prophets and priesthood holders…”,it clearly demonstrates that you have no idea what you are talking about. In fact, the only active priesthood referred to in the gospels was the Zadokite priesthood. The purpose of the Gospel was to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, not establish another Hasmonean regime that re-institutes a strict, letter of the law interpretation of the Torah.
First of all, there is absolutely no evidence of Christ seeking out the company of, or remaining in the midst of real, actual, true sinners, especially those who were unrepentant.
Christ came to seek justice for those who were without justice. I guess he was hanging out with the powers-that-be, i.e. the Sadducees and the Romans in all their palatial splendor, eating grapes and drinking wine, watching the real, actual sinners below, laughing at them while forgetting some other purpose he had to accomplish.
Evidence #1: Jesus eats with the “Son of Alpheus” (Matthew the tax collector) and other sinners while being chastised by the Pharisees.
Evidence #2: Jesus goes to the house of a Zadokite priest, Jairus, and raises his daughter. Did Jairus actually, really repent of his sins before he performed this act?
Evidence #3: Jesus goes to Jerusalem and curses the fig tree (symbolic of the temple and failures of Jewish authorities to take care of its people); he is confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus sees the widow’s mite and seeks to reason with the Pharisees by exposing their unjust treatment of their own people.
Evidence #4: Jesus is in the midst of a world plagued by sin. He comes into the world to empower all who accept him to become God’s children, so that they share in God’s fulness–a gift reflecting God’s enduring love that outdoes the loving gift of the law through Moses. Jesus seeks both Jew and Gentile: he shows mercy and compassion to those who come unto him (the blind man Jesus heals twice) and expresses compassionate disappointment for those who don’t (the rich man who follows the law, but cannot “lose his life” for his friends).
The widow (an untouchable), the man in the cloak (an untouchable), the hemorrhaging woman (an untouchable), and many others were not without sin. They were abandoned and directionless. Through the physical healing was a spiritual healing that redirected them toward Him.
An aside: Where would Jesus be today? In the Salt Lake Temple? In St. Peter’s in Rome? Or, would he be present in prisons, AIDS clinics, and battered women’s shelters?
So don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t tell me your compassion towards ?¢Ç¨?ìsinners?¢Ç¨¬ù is on par with the Savior?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s unless you are offering ALL of the same things to them that He would and did.
That wasn’t my point, but someone who has been transformed by Christ would have the ability to offer the same kind of mercy and compassion that he offered to all.
I use Jesus’ example, the Markan doublet with Jairus’s Daughter and the Hemorrhaging Woman, as my template for compassion towards “sinners”–that I should show compassion and mercy to all. Although I cannot be on par with Jesus, I can imitate Him the best that I can by showing love and mercy for all of God’s children.
“You seem to be confused how God’s immutable laws operate.”
This is a curious phrase, considering the LDS perspective is viewing God as a transitional being: Heavenly Father once being mortal, becoming an immortal being. This begs the question: If Heavenly Father was a created being, then who created Him? Immutability is the doctrine that God cannot change. His divine nature is ineffable. Our finite nature cannot begin to define His infinite and divine nature. What you have described as immutable is relativistic. God can change his mind where he likes whenever he likes. If that is the case, then the Torah would be reworked to fit shifting cultural frameworks. The Torah’s interpretation changes to make sense of current cultural conditions, but the Torah itself does not change.
On the other hand, D&C 132 sounds like an immutable law of God, but falls apart because orthodox Mormons do not practice the principle of plural marriage any more. Eternal marriage principles have been adjusted to fit the cultural framework of this country. Therefore, D&C 132 is not immutable, otherwise it would not be condemned by the authorities of the church that once diligently practiced it.
“With a higher law, such as the one established by Christ Himself, came a higher standard of living, not a lower one.”
The higher laws are antitheses to the Torah, not refutations. Adultery wasn’t taken out of the Torah as a sin; it was re-interpreted. Plural marriage wasn’t a sin, but it became one. Thus, the comparison is not a valid comparison.
Finally, I never stated that I placed my faith in Michael Quinn’s statement. That was your assumption. Quinn and Bushman both note that the spiritual crisis Joseph experienced in his final days cannot be fully understood. However, it doesn’t mean his statements cannot be evaluated. Evaluating those statements should not be avoided. They exist to give us a more completed portrait of who he was. It is ignoring the details or pretending they do not exist that dangerously places the faithful in harms way. For example, Joseph was known to have at least thirty wives; however, the church only portrays his relationship of Emma as the only significant relationship with his wives that he possessed. By ignoring the obvious (thirty wives), it leads to ignored questions (why does the church ignore his 29 other wives? Or why doesn’t the church mention his polygamous relationships with investigators or new members?). Ignored questions have the potential to generate speculative answers. Speculative answers can lead to incorrectly drawn conclusions. Incorrectly drawn conclusions can lead to bewilderment. And bewilderment often returns the faithful to the abyss they were once drawn away from.
Stephan, thank you so much for your wonderful comment #265! My year of full-time Bible study in a college in Europe was the best year of my life. I became solidly established in my Christian faith, and most of all, with a deep desire to be a follower of Jesus, not of a religion, after decades of being ignorant and dogmatic.
I don’t expect you to seriously consider anything I have to say, but someone else might and so I’ll answer your post.
[This may have been the most confused theological statement ever made. From which context are you referring?]
The context is Matthew 23:5,23 (Christ speaking)
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men:
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment , mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
[Where did the Pharisees condemn the past prophets?]
Christ references both past and future prophets in Matthew 23:34,35 Zacharias and John were two ?¢Ç¨?ìpast?¢Ç¨¬ù prophets at the time Christ made the following statements:
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
And in Luke 7:33 Christ says to the Pharisees:
?¢Ç¨?ìFor John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.?¢Ç¨¬ù
[In fact, the only active priesthood referred to in the gospels was the Zadokite priesthood]
There is a difference between priesthood and priestcraft. John the Baptist?¢Ç¨Àús priesthood (Aaronic) was active and his authority is referred to, as is Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s (John 15:16) and John 1:19 says that priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to question John.
[Christ came to seek justice for those who were without justice.]
More correctly, Christ came to answer the demands of Justice upon a world under it’s grip. The Law of Mercy allows His grace to counterbalance the scales that were tipped against us.
Before responding to your supposed evidences of Christ ?¢Ç¨?ìseeking out the company of, or remaining in the midst of real, actual, true sinners, especially those who were unrepentant?¢Ç¨¬ù, let me make my original statement more clear.
We are ALL sinners to some degree or another, each and every human being, and so everywhere Jesus went He would encounter human sinners. The ?¢Ç¨?ìsinners?¢Ç¨¬ù I was specifically referring to are those who are aware of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s laws and CHOOSE to break them, and in particular those who refuse to repent or change.
1-The Pharisees considered tax collectors (publicans) to be sinners by default because of their employment. They viewed them as nothing more than government extortionists, and anyone who chose to associate with them was given the same distinction. Matthew was a Levite-which enraged and disgusted the Pharisees even more-after all, how could one of their OWN stoop so low? The Pharisees declare that Matthew is a sinner the night of the feast, but they would have had no idea if he was in need of repentance at that time or not. They also probably had no idea that Matthew had walked away from his ?¢Ç¨?ìsinful?¢Ç¨¬ù job when the Savior invited him to ?¢Ç¨?ìcome follow me?¢Ç¨¬ù. There is no indication of how much time ?¢Ç¨?ìcame to pass?¢Ç¨¬ù between Matthew becoming a disciple of Jesus and the night of the feast held in Matthew?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s house, and it cannot be truthfully determined that in this instance Jesus is eating with unrepentant or willing sinners.
2-Jairus was a ruler in a synagogue and he and Jesus were acquainted with each other. Everything about Jarius?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ behavior when he asks Christ to save his daughter indicates that he felt reverence for the Lord, and had faith in His power. There is no indication that Jarius was not worthy of the miracle bestowed upon his daughter or that he was unrepentant in any way and Jesus did not ?¢Ç¨?ìseek him out?¢Ç¨¬ù in this instance (Jarius came to Him).
3-A metaphor against hypocrisy-a tree that should have had sweet fruit hidden amongst its leaves was barren. Christ demonstrates that because the Jews have ceased to be fruitful and have become corrupt, that they will very soon wither away and their temple will be destroyed. Those who outwardly appear to be fulfilling their purpose but do not produce the fruits of faith are guilty of hypocrisy on top of being unable to “feed His sheep” spiritual nourishment. They will share the same fate as the tree unless they repent. (Obviously this is not an example of Christ seeking out or remaining in the company of sinners)
4-We exist in the same world plagued with sin that Christ did. We are expected to invite all to ?¢Ç¨?ìcome unto Him?¢Ç¨¬ù and become ?¢Ç¨?ìHis children?¢Ç¨¬ù so that they too can partake of the fullness of God-a gift that Israel had anciently refused when offered and that the world would corrupt and reject not long after Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s death. We are to show compassion towards all who accept His invitation, and express compassionate disappointment for those who do not. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m sure you are aware Christ did not require the rich man to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor-he also said ?¢Ç¨?ìcome and follow me?¢Ç¨¬ù. When the man leaves in sorrow- Christ teaches his disciples how difficult it is to obtain exaltation without being willing to ?¢Ç¨?ìforsake?¢Ç¨¬ù whatever is required in exchange for being named as Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s.
[The widow (an untouchable), the man in the cloak (an untouchable), the hemorrhaging woman (an untouchable), and many others were not without sin. They were abandoned and directionless. Through the physical healing was a spiritual healing that redirected them toward Him.]
First- the word ?¢Ç¨?ìuntouchable?¢Ç¨¬ù does not appear in scripture, so I have no idea exactly how you mean to apply it to these specific people.
Second-The Law of Moses states clearly several times the commandment to care for the poor, the widowed, the fatherless (as do other books in the OT) so compassion was expected towards widows prior to the time of Christ (whether or not the Jews were living that way) and because there are several widows mentioned in the NT, I have no idea which one you consider to be ?¢Ç¨?ìuntouchable?¢Ç¨¬ù by your definition.
If by the man in the cloak you mean Bartimaeus the blind beggar, his attitude PRIOR to being healed indicates that he had faith in Christ, and contrary to order you prescribe above, Christ makes it very clear that the man?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s spiritual condition/faith is what directed him toward the Savior and allowed his physical healing to take place. The same is said of the hemorrhaging woman (?¢Ç¨?ìThy faith hath made thee whole) and scripture indicates that she KNEW she had been healed before Christ spoke His first words to her.
In all of the instances you referenced, the person in question seeks out Christ (rather than Him seeking them out) and they all manifest a spirit of repentance and willingness to follow Christ (faith) BEFORE they are healed.
In fact, I am unaware of even ONE instance in the NT where Christ clearly and irrefutably heals someone while that person is engaged in current and willful sin or is unrepentant or unbelieving. How true then the statement that ?¢Ç¨?ìFaith precedes the miracle?¢Ç¨¬ù.
[An aside: Where would Jesus be today? In the Salt Lake Temple? In St. Peter?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s in Rome? Or, would he be present in prisons, AIDS clinics, and battered women?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s shelters?]
If Jesus original ministry actually took place today, He would likely be exactly where He was then-as He stated in Luke 4: ?¢Ç¨?ìpreaching the kingdom of God?¢Ç¨¬ù ?¢Ç¨?ìin cities?¢Ç¨¬ù ?¢Ç¨?ìfor therefore am I sent?¢Ç¨¬ù. He would be spreading His message of repentance and salvation to everyone who would listen.
I say this because years of extensive study and love for the scriptures reveals that Christ’s earthly ministry was dedicated to traveling and teaching and proclaiming His message. Someone unfamiliar with the NT would probably be shocked to discover that there is no evidence that Jesus ever visited anyone being held in a prison, including John the Baptist. It might also surprise them to learn that there is nothing that suggests that Jesus ever had made it a point to purposefully visit a leper colony or asylum or any other medical establishment either.
But since you surely were aware of that, I can only wonder why the three choices you offered to me to pick from were so ironically Pharisaical?¢Ç¨¬¶right down to equating AIDS patients and abused women with convicted murderers and rapists?¢Ç¨¬¶
In hope of changing the tenor of our discussion so that it does not appear hostile or derogatory. The concept of maintaining a peaceful dialogue so that we continue to nurture one another is with respect to the ideas shared. Thus, if I take issue with your arguments, it is the arguments, and not the person.
I will work backwards with your comments.
“But since you surely were aware of that, I can only wonder why the three choices you offered to me to pick from were so ironically Pharisaical?¢Ç¨¬¶right down to equating AIDS patients and abused women with convicted murderers and rapists?¢Ç¨¬¶”
Thank you for picking up on the irony I laid out. However, you projected an unequivocally biased perspective on those who exists in prisons. The common ground between those in prisons and abused women and AIDS patients is that they are all children of God. Like battered women and AIDS patients, they too exist in the margins. God works toward life for everyone. It an unfair assumption that every individual inside ALL prisons are there because they exclusively chose to be there. Socio-economic statistics depict a tremendous disparity between groups that stem from disenfranchised backgrounds. Environment influences the effects of what it produces. You have equated every person in prison as murderers or rapists. They are all living in negative situations. This does not mean we should refrain from demonstrating mercy.
Mercy means to show compassion to those who do not deserve it. Hence, “Blessed are they who are merciful (eleos), for they will receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). When you give love, you don’t lose love; you have created more love. The nature of mercy is creative. The most difficult thing to do is forgiving those who trespass us. The children of God will love their enemies. They will love indiscriminately.
Thus, as Christians, we are to bear our neighbors burdens. If this includes portraying mercy to murderers, rapists, individuals with active temple recommends, shoppers on Sunday, closet coffee drinkers, AIDS patients, those who don’t eat meat sparingly, and drunk-driving alcoholics, then we must remember that God “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain t fall on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy and the persecutor. His disciples, as children of God, must imitate the example of their Father, who grants his gifts of sun and rain to both good and the bad.
“First- the word ?¢Ç¨?ìuntouchable?¢Ç¨¬ù does not appear in scripture, so I have no idea exactly how you mean to apply it to these specific people.”
The term “untouchable” is an inference made within the context of 1st century Ancient Israelite culture. Untouchable here means marginalized–those who are supposed to be taken care of by the Pharisees and Sadducees, yet are neglected by the very people who are supposed to be taking care of them, as exemplified in Exodus 22:20-26 (“You shall not molest or oppress an alien…”).
“We are ALL sinners to some degree or another, each and every human being, and so everywhere Jesus went He would encounter human sinners. The ?¢Ç¨?ìsinners?¢Ç¨¬ù I was specifically referring to are those who are aware of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s laws and CHOOSE to break them, and in particular those who refuse to repent or change.”
In the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ disciples do not fully understand the fulfillment of God’s laws through Jesus until his resurrection. In Mark 8, Peter confesses to Jesus that he is the Messiah. Yet, he does not have a complete understanding as to what that meant; a few verses after his confession, Matthew demonstrates that he does not understand why the Son of Man must suffer (“Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”). If the disciples did not fully understand Jesus’ ministry until after his death and resurrection, then how could they have been fully aware of their sinful nature while being in Jesus’ presence? What would then be the purpose of Jesus’ shared praxis–rather than telling people what they should know, but leaving them to see it on their own–if they were not sinful themselves? Your interpretation is an ex post facto understanding.
I will respond to some of your other comments with regards to the Levitical priesthood and the Pharisaical traditions at a future date. I look forward to continuing this dialogue. Please do not assume that I devalue your insight and interpretations, or that your insight is unimportant to me.
I appreciate your response and am happy to continue,as long as sarcasm such as how proud the Pharisees would be and determinations about how clearly what I say proves that I don’t know what I’m talking about are kept to the barest minimum. I am far to weak and proud to remain polite and above such things for very long and I believe that if you goad me into responding accordingly, you will bear some of the responsibility for my resulting sin. 😛
You are making an assumption about what the apostles knew or did not know regarding their own sinfulness, and as you so wisely phrased it in post #265 “Speculative answers can lead to incorrectly drawn conclusions”
In many instances where the sick and afflicted were brought to Jesus for healing, no verbal penitence is recorded, but Christ responds openly with “thy sins are forgiven”. It is obvious from this and other scripture stating as much, that Christ has the ability to “look upon the heart” and determine who is repentant and who is not.
Just as surely, Christ had no problem telling those that needed to repent to do so, so there is no reason to believe that if His apostles were engaged in sin or unrepentant, that He would have remained silent or overlooked it.
Those who sin willfully or who are engaged in sin lose the ability to feel the Spirit and the desire to respond to it. In Matthew’s case, there is no evidence that he even hesitated or doubted when the Savior prompted him to leave his job and follow Him. To me, it indicates an eager and willing spirit.
After Peter declared that Jesus was “the Christ”, the master said this:”Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Such revelations are not given to the unrepentant, nor are the visions that Peter, James and John would experience less than a week later. Christ selected good men with histories of integrity and humility as His apostles, and faith does not have to be “perfect” before forgiveness is granted, it just has to be genuine.
As far as those you feel were marginalized by the Pharisees and Sadducees- the Law of Moses was not given only to those who “led” the Jewish community, it applied to ALL who lived under it. If there were those who were abandoned or abused, their leaders were not solely to blame, for they were not being taken care of their neighbors and families either.
But that is beside the point I keep trying to make. Christ taught us to love our neighbors and feel sorrow for them and mourn with them and have compassion on them-He did NOT teach us to embrace of support any sins they may be guilty of. To take advantage of the Atonement and obtain forgiveness requires repentance on our part. While decency and kindness is given to all, only those who repent have claim on Christ’s mercy.
Justice and mercy are eternally existing laws that are combined in God’s perfect law. There are many that think that they can embrace what is merciful in God’s fullness while ignoring what is just but LDS doctrine states clearly that mercy cannot rob justice. They are either deluded or do not comprehend the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Without justice there would be no penalty for sin, but there would also be no blessing or growth for righteousness either. Justice prevents the wicked from escaping the price required for disobedience but it also secures the blessings that attend obedience. Justice allows for someone else to pay the required price for our sin (Christ) BUT ONLY if the proxy is equally just and perfectly fair AND the original debtor acknowledges and agrees to the proxy offered. (this prevents us from becoming indebted to someone unjust who could enslave us or demand a higher and unjust price in return etc)
Christ’s grace and mercy provided the gift of Atonement-He paid our tab-BUT justice demands that access to that merciful gift is only granted to those who acknowledge Christ as their Lord and Savior and accept His conditions (repentance and obedience)in return.
What I believe is not merely the “traditions” of my parents or others of my faith-what I know to be true is the result of endless study, prayer and the divine (and highly personal) manifestations granted to me despite my weaknesses and ineptitude. You can no more convince me otherwise, nor can I deny certain truths than I can sprout wings and fly.
So,you can believe whatever you choose to about my faith, my arguments, my knowledge, or even the degree to which I am sane-it makes no difference to me either way. I have lost all desire to argue and have no authority with which to condemn or convert. I came to honor my covenant to stand as a witness of God and His gospel in all places and having done that, my accountability has come to an end.
“Just as surely, Christ had no problem telling those that needed to repent to do so, so there is no reason to believe that if His apostles were engaged in sin or unrepentant, that He would have remained silent or overlooked it.”
All of his apostles fled–except for the women closely associated with His ministry and John. Through their abandonment of their teacher, the apostles demonstrated that they misunderstood the Passion Predictions made by Jesus. The conditions of discipleship were exemplified after Jesus’ resurrection. The conditions of discipleship were amplified in the Synoptic Gospels when Jesus stated “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Jesus knew his disciples would flee, otherwise the statement would be irrelevant within their context if they had not. They were “ashamed” or they would not have fled. On the other hand, the disciples had not been fully transformed by Jesus’ message because they did not fully understand His true identity. To suggest the apostles were not engaged in sin or unrepentant presumes that they walked sinless while in the presence of Christ. They weren’t without sin; neither are we.
“He did NOT teach us to embrace of support any sins they may be guilty of.”
The corporal identity shared within the Ancient Israelite community also shared the effects of sin. A sin against one was a sin against the community. Demonstrating compassion and mercy toward sinners and their sins does not mean that we submit our will to the sin; demonstrating compassion and mercy toward sinners and their sins was the method prescribed by Christ for us–the community–to help cope with sin.
Now, tie this concept to the original intentions presented in this thread–how to deal with members of the church who desire to legislate morality with respect to same-sex marriages. What method was used with regard to same-sex marriage in the church in reference to Prop. 8? Voting against the proposition. Voting against the proposition sends a contradictory message, a message that does not accurately reflect who we are as Christians. The message expresses exclusion, not inclusion. It is not a message of compassion; it is a message of condemnation. The message: unless you fit within the uniform and inflexible of template of God’s laws, you cannot be one of us. Again, the sun shines on the wicked as well as the just. Just as the Pharisees marginalized its people, we have done the same. Marginalizing groups is not compassionate, it is not merciful, it is not empathetic, it is not Christ-like.
“Justice and mercy are eternally existing laws that are combined in God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s perfect law. There are many that think that they can embrace what is merciful in God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s fullness while ignoring what is just but LDS doctrine states clearly that mercy cannot rob justice. They are either deluded or do not comprehend the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
There is some common ground here. It is unjust where mercy is not given. Christ’s mercy is immeasurable. I cannot comprehend the depth of His mercy; therefore, I cannot comprehend the depths of His justice. The cross demonstrates that he loved ALL of us; it was an unconditional sacrifice. He did not just shed his blood for the just, but the unjust. This is the meaning of the critical climax at the cross. It is incomprehensible to begin to understand the mystery of His sacrifice.
This is best demonstrated by the Roman centurion. He was transformed by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. It is a beautiful paradox illustrated in Mark’s gospel that the only human character that proclaims “God’s Son” is his executioner, not his followers.
Again-you do not seem to comprehend the type of ?¢Ç¨?ìsinning?¢Ç¨¬ù to which I am referring. To be WILLFULLY disobedient of (as opposed to accidentally or innocently transgressing) God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s commandments requires two things-1) a knowledge of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s commandments and 2) the agency to consciously adhere to or rebel against them. JUSTICE dictates that someone must be placed under, and made aware of, certain laws before they can ?¢Ç¨?ìsin?¢Ç¨¬ù against or violate those laws. It also dictates that someone must be placed under, and made aware of, certain laws before they can be blessed or rewarded for adherence to those laws.
Using that distinction let me point out a couple of things. First of all, John 20 talks about the events the morning that Mary and the other disciples find Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s tomb empty. In verse 9 we read ?¢Ç¨?ìFor as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead?¢Ç¨¬ù. Obviously then, since the apostles did not ?¢Ç¨?ìhave a knowledge?¢Ç¨¬ù that Christ would rise from the dead and dwell again on earth after three days-they believed that His death removed Him permanently from earth. With that belief in their hearts in Gethsemane, and knowing that the Lord HAD commanded and appointed them to continue His ministry and Kingdom on earth, they must have felt fear and an urgency to ?¢Ç¨?ìflee?¢Ç¨¬ù from capture and certain death themselves or else Christ’s entire ministry would have been for nothing. Nowhere in scripture does it state that the apostles were ?¢Ç¨?ìashamed?¢Ç¨¬ù of Christ or His gospel in the garden-that is purely your assumption. Peter doesn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t even realize that he actually had ?¢Ç¨?ìdenied?¢Ç¨¬ù Christ at all until he hears the rooster crow TWICE-at which point he weeps. None of the gospels report that he or any of the other disciples felt ?¢Ç¨?ìashamed?¢Ç¨¬ù.
Now, IF the apostles had been commanded to die with Christ when He was crucified, and they consciously rebelled against that commandment-they would have been guilty of ?¢Ç¨?ìsinning?¢Ç¨¬ù against that commandment the moment they fled. But they were never commanded to do any such thing.
AND if the apostles didn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t ?¢Ç¨?ìknow?¢Ç¨¬ù or comprehend resurrection until some point after Christ was resurrected, they certainly couldn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t have ?¢Ç¨?ìsinned?¢Ç¨¬ù regarding it BEFORE He was crucified-such as in the verses you quote from Mark 8. I also want to point out something you may have missed when Christ utters the same words two chapters later in Mark 10 to the ?¢Ç¨?ìrich man?¢Ç¨¬ù. The rich man does NOT ask Christ what the ?¢Ç¨?ìconditions of discipleship?¢Ç¨¬ù are. He asks Christ how to obtain the kingdom of heaven-exaltation. Christ tells him to ?¢Ç¨?ìkeep the commandments?¢Ç¨¬ù. The man asks ?¢Ç¨?ìwhich ones??¢Ç¨¬ù and (contrary to what you believe) Christ lists many commandments from the OT-proving that SOME of the Old Laws were in fact very much a part of His gospel/ New Law. The man indicates that he has kept all the laws since he was a child and then asks ?¢Ç¨?ìWhat do I still lack??¢Ç¨¬ù At this point Christ teaches him that those that obtain the Kingdom of Heaven must not only be obedient to His commandments, they must ALSO be willing to give up everything else if necessary.
[The corporal identity shared within the Ancient Israelite community also shared the effects of sin. A sin against one was a sin against the community.]
EXACTLY. This is why God has always taught that AVOIDING sin in the first place is preferable to having to make restitution for it. (To obey is better than to sacrifice or repent).
[Voting against the proposition sends a contradictory message, a message that does not accurately reflect who we are as Christians.]
I would respond that supporting a proposition that contradicts a law of God that has existed since it was given to Adam and Eve does not accurately reflect ANY form of Christianity.
[The message expresses exclusion, not inclusion.]
The gospel of Jesus Christ-as expressed in His own words-INVITES all mankind to INCLUDE themselves in-to CHOOSE to belong to His Kingdom on earth AND in Heaven. He also makes it clear that those who will not accept His invitation and CHOOSE to meet His requirements EXCLUDE themselves from membership within both. It is inaccurate to profess that Christianity contains no distinctions between those who are His and those that are not.
[It is not a message of compassion; it is a message of condemnation.]
Condemnation is NOT the antithesis of compassion. The opposite of condemnation is absolution, acquittal, exoneration. We have been commanded to show compassion for all-including ?¢Ç¨?ìsinners?¢Ç¨¬ù, but none of us have the power or authority to pronounce condemnation or to promise absolution.
[The message: unless you fit within the uniform and inflexible of template of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s laws, you cannot be one of us.]
Was Christ inconsistent and variable? Instead of giving us a law that is uniform and inflexible, did He give us one that was ?¢Ç¨?ìrandom?¢Ç¨¬ù and ?¢Ç¨?ìadjustable?¢Ç¨¬ù to follow? If so, then by all means, of course anyone ?¢Ç¨?ìcan be one of us?¢Ç¨¬ù! All they have to do is choose to mimic the traits of Christ that they like, discard the ones they don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t and label themselves as ?¢Ç¨?ìChristians?¢Ç¨¬ù.
[Just as the Pharisees marginalized its people, we have done the same. Marginalizing groups is not compassionate, it is not merciful, it is not empathetic, it is not Christ-like.]
Now, this is both a slippery slope and a straw man at once. This argument seeks to make a specific group within any given society responsible for the differences in the social standing of every other person living within it. Only ONE society-the City of Enoch, was ever able to overcome all differences and distinctions to the point where every citizen shared equal responsibility and stewardship for everyone else. They were able to because they were of one heart and one mind and of one purpose.
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul is shocked to hear that members of the church are supporting the behavior of a couple among them who is guilty of serious sin. He notes that they are “puffed up” with pride in their sympathetic acceptance of this relationship when they should have “rather mourned” and cast such a transgressors out of their midst. Because the brotherhood and fellowship so important to the unity of the saints, does not extend to the casual acceptance of serious sin, he tells the Corinthian saints, “your glorying is not good.”
No one who truly understands the holy grandeur and grace of the Atonement and Salvation of Jesus Christ would EVER think the most compassionate and merciful gift to offer to sinners is mere sympathy and acceptance.
[There is some common ground here. It is unjust where mercy is not given.]
Not so. The Justice of God maintains a perfect just balance whether or not mercy is involved. Justice only becomes UNJUST if it demands either too severe a penalty or one that is not severe enough. Likewise it only becomes UNJUST if it offers too small a blessing for obedience or one that is too great. Perfect Justice is perfectly FAIR. It is this quality that assures God’s children that He is ?¢Ç¨?ìno respecter of persons?¢Ç¨¬ù. He does not unjustly punish OR bless any of His children. He does not play favorites.
SO, and it is critical to understand this-the Justice of God was not and is not destroyed or negated by the Mercy of God. Justice allowed His mercy to transfer the penalties of our sins from our accounts to His. Mercy cannot rob justice much less end it. There is opposition in ALL things. Exaltation can only be available to us as long as damnation is equally available. If God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s mercy had destroyed damnation, or rendered it invalid, it would also have destroyed exaltation and He would have ceased to be God.
[The cross demonstrates that he loved ALL of us; it was an unconditional sacrifice.]
Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s sacrifice was TWO fold-1) to redeem mankind from the effects of the Fall (that we do not deserve) or in other words, human death without the possibility for resurrection, required that someone with the power to both lay His own life and take it up again had to do both and make resurrection possible for the rest of us. 2) to redeem mankind from the effects of their own sins (that we DO deserve) or in other words, spiritual death-required that someone who was not guilty of any sin could suffer in our behalf and make repentance possible for the rest of us.
BOTH missions Christ agreed to and imposed no conditions of His own to either one. Because we did nothing to bring about the Fall, Justice does not require anything from us in return for immortality. BUT, because we ALL did something to bring about the consequences of our own sins; Justice DOES require something from us in return for absolution, namely REPENTANCE and OBEDIENCE.
Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s obedience does not apply to us; neither does His Atonement constitute repentance in our behalf. All He can do is stand at the door with the payment for our sins in hand to satisfy Justice-but WE hold the key to that door and justice requires that WE open it if we want His atonement to pay our debt for us.
[He did not just shed his blood for the just, but the unjust.]
This is a discussion all on its own, and this is too long already. But let me leave you with this to consider:
Perfect Justice could not require or accept payment for the same sins twice, (that would be unjust) and the NT and other scriptures make it clear that those who refuse to repent will be turned over to Satan to pay the price for their own sins to the uttermost farthing.
So-in that light, does it make any sense to believe that Christ suffered for the sins of even those who would never take advantage of His mercy?
I do not believe that any attempt to quantify the atonement algorythmically will ever suffice. It was and is infitine. Thinking of it in mathematical terms of x amount of suffering for y number of sins is far too narrow–and clearly finite. I don’t think the atonement is anything like a federal bailout, and I think we do it disservice to quantify it in any similar terms. Nor do I think we can safely draw any conclusions from those equations we create.
“…It was and is infinite.”
Nice to see you back, Rick!
Some months ago, in a conversation with my local Orthodox priest friend, I mentioned the idea of the “ultimate Atonement” being when Christ and Satan were reconciled with the Creator Father. My friend smiled and said: “In Orthodoxy, that reconciliation is already accomplished.”
When he said that, I realized at once that, as you have just now observed, I had been thinking in terms of *time* and not *eternity*. “Of course”, I replied immediately to Fr. John, “I now realize the ultimate atonement is an infinite, eternal issue! Of course it is already accomplished!”
Thanks for the reminder, Rick.
I agree that the Atonement is infinite, and that state doesn’t really apply to what I’m trying to say.
LDS doctrine is that every human being that has lived on THIS earth must either repent of their sins through the Atonement or suffer the consequences of those sins themselves. Doctrine is also that at some finite time after the Millennium there will be a final judgment upon us all which applies also to some finite period of time/experience relating to that judgment. To be declared clean or unclean, worthy or unworthy of specific blessings, including which kingdom we each merit, there has to be some sort of fixed standard to measure our worthiness against.
In other words, I see no reason why the Atonement cannot be ongoing and infinite in both directions-past and future-while still applying to specific people and times finitely.
Either way, however the Atonement works and operates eternally is irrelevant to the discussion really. The point is that the Lord has told us specifically what our responsibilities are during mortality for taking advantage of it.
I think you have looked beyond Rick’s point. Below is a passage from St. Thomas Aquinas that eloquently addresses this issue:
“This leads to the question of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s infinity. God is not infinite by way of privation, according to which infinity is a passion of quantity; in this sense whatever lacks limits, but is nevertheless capable of having limits by reason of its genus, is said to be infinite. Rather, God is infinite negatively, in the sense that a being that is unlimited in every way is infinite.”
God is clearly infinite in a more powerful sense: He cannot be limited, even in principle. An arbitrary integer x could be infinite, in the sense that we?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ve not limited it; and given any specific integer x one can always find a larger x+1. You can build up to any amount, yet God isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t infinite in this ?¢Ç¨?ìwe can build it as large as we like?¢Ç¨¬ù sense.
The gift of grace “exceeds every preparation of human power.” It is not our decision to make, but God’s. It is not limited to binary systematic thinking and cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, “If this, then this; if not this, then this.”
To say how the Atonement works and operates eternally is irrelevant to the discussion marginalizes the concept of grace. A fixed, either/or set of standards cannot be reduced to binary terms. Nor can our judgment presume who will receive grace and who will not. We live within grace with the hope of receiving it from God. Or as Aquinas delivers with clarity, “…a man may, of himself, know something, and with certainty; and in this way no one can know that he has grace.”
“But neither do I judge my own self…but He that judges me is the Lord.”–I Corinthians 4:3-4
Yet, how can discussion of God’s infinitude receive serious consideration when Heavenly Father possesses a resurrected body, which again begs the question: if Heavenly Father was a created being, then who created Him?
[Nor can our judgment presume who will receive grace and who will not. We live within grace with the hope of receiving it from God. Or as Aquinas delivers with clarity, ?¢Ç¨?ì?¢Ç¨¬¶a man may, of himself, know something, and with certainty; and in this way no one can know that he has grace.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
Tsk tsk-to understand Aquinas (or properly apply his words to support your argument) you really cannot cherry pick or take certain passages out of context.
In the paragraph PRIOR to the quote above, he states: ?¢Ç¨?ìThere are three ways of knowing a thing: first, by revelation, and thus anyone may know that he has grace, for God by a special privilege reveals this at times to some, in order that the joy of safety may begin in them even in this life, and that they may carry on toilsome works with greater trust and greater energy, and may bear the evils of this present life, as when it was said to Paul 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for thee.?¢Ç¨¬ù
(You only quoted #2-and even left out any indication that it was only PART of his entire response)
God tells us EXACTLY who will receive the ultimate benefit of His grace and who will not in scripture, and CAN also reveal that knowledge to us. This is not a doctrine made known or popularized in LDS theology either.
From one of hundreds of articles on “grace” from the web:from shepherdserve.org, and a paper written by David Servant called ?¢Ç¨?ìThe Limits of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s Grace?¢Ç¨¬ù:
?¢Ç¨?ìUnderstanding biblical grace, however, we no longer need to twist what Jesus once said so plainly, ?¢Ç¨?ìIf you wish to enter life, keep the commandments?¢Ç¨¬ù (Matt. 19:17), as He responded to a man who asked Him what he must do to obtain eternal life. Nor do we need some complex explanation why Jesus told a lawyer, ?¢Ç¨?ìDo this and you will live?¢Ç¨¬ù (Luke 10:28) when that lawyer also asked Him, ?¢Ç¨?ìWhat shall I do to inherit eternal life??¢Ç¨¬ù and then quoted the two greatest commandments. Obedience, born of faith, is not legalism; it is the only proper response to the kind of grace that God is offering. This is precisely why Jesus said to all His followers, ?¢Ç¨?ìNot everyone who says to Me, ?¢Ç¨ÀúLord, Lord,?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven?¢Ç¨¬ù (Matt. 7:21).
This is also why the apostles always called people to repent when they proclaimed the gospel as recorded in the book of Acts. This is why Paul warned that the greedy, the unrighteous, and those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s kingdom (see 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). This is why he wrote that God will give eternal life to those who persevere in doing good (see Rom. 2:7). This is why John wrote, ?¢Ç¨?ìBy this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments?¢Ç¨¬ù (1 John 2:3) and why the author the book of Hebrews penned, ?¢Ç¨?ìFollow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord?¢Ç¨¬ù (Heb. 12:14). All of these scriptures and many more like them prove beyond any shadow of doubt that God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s grace does not mitigate the necessity of repentance and ongoing holiness to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The greatest tragedy today is that so many are trusting in a grace that God has never offered to anyone. We are indeed saved by grace?¢Ç¨Äùbut it is a grace that offers us an opportunity to repent and become committed disciples who love God with all our hearts and keep His commandments. God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s grace forgives and transforms those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.?¢Ç¨¬ù
[Yet, how can discussion of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s infinitude receive serious consideration when Heavenly Father possesses a resurrected body, which again begs the question: if Heavenly Father was a created being, then who created Him?]
I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m sorry, for some reason I have been working under the assumption that you were an active member of the LDS Church (who would already know the answer to that question) and that this was a serious discussion. My bad. I apologize.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” The Prophet then explained that the Father once lived as a mortal on another earth and “worked out his salvation with fear and trembling”?¢Ç¨Äùpresumably under his Father and his God.?¢Ç¨¬ù (TPJS 345, 347).
President Brigham Young also spoke to this point: “How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity”
God (our Father in Heaven) became a God Himself by following divine and eternal laws that result in divinity when they are obeyed in faith. He institutes those same laws for us, His children, because we expressed the desire to become like He is. If we do not obey His laws and follow His commandments, we become something OTHER than He is, which is why in His loving mercy and grace He considers our salvation and exaltation to be ?¢Ç¨?ìHis work and His glory?¢Ç¨¬ù.
He is merciful in offering His children so many chances to ?¢Ç¨?ìget it?¢Ç¨¬ù, to accept His gospel, to understand and comprehend their own glorious potential. He pleads, whispers, chastens those He loves, reminds, exorts and provides witness after witness for us in the HOPE that we will realize who we are and why we are here BEFORE it is too late to change our natures, to bend and correct the mortal side of our wills-to His.
Maybe your eyes have not been opened yet, or perhaps your ears do not hear clearly yet. You feel that those who cry repentance and who witness that God lives and that ?¢Ç¨?ìNow is the time to prepare to meet God?¢Ç¨¬ù are rude or insensitive to people who struggle, and that they deem them to be worse sinners or ?¢Ç¨?ìlesser thans.?¢Ç¨¬ù What a sad and mistaken (not to mention judgmental frame of mind). In truth isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t the Bible filled with examples where fellow sinners have come to know and love God more deeply and more clearly THROUGH their own sins and repentance process? Once they have tasted of His redeeming love and atonement, don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t they spend their lives crying repentance to EVERYONE they meet because they now view them as equals and true brothers and sisters? They ?¢Ç¨?ìlose their former lives?¢Ç¨¬ù and spend their ?¢Ç¨?ìsaved lives?¢Ç¨¬ù tossing life preservers into the stormy seas of mortality in the hopes that other members of the eternal family will take hold and perhaps be drawn into the safety of the boat along with them.
In your eyes perhaps they are just splashing merrily around and squealing with delight as they ?¢Ç¨?ìswim?¢Ç¨¬ù with the rest of humanity, and you view those who are waving their arms from the shore or the safety of the boats as interrupting the fun, intruding on the free will of others. But those who have almost drowned before KNOW and recognize the signs of another person who is drowning, and it is every bit as much an act of pure grace and mercy to jump in and attempt to save someone else?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s spiritual life as it is to do the same for their mortal life. Those who KNOW God and have taken on His name are under obligation to do exactly that, and if they do not, they are either cowards or unbelievers. Both indicate a fall from grace.
I am impressed on several levels: (1) that your hijacked perspective on Thomas’s statements is based on an LDS understanding and (2)your assumption surrounding Thomas’s explanation was made only to highlight what I chose to find impertinent to your misunderstanding of God’s infinitude? Cherry-picked arguments has been the primary strategy used to defend most of your claims.
If you wish to continue a discussion on Aquinas, Natural Law, and the Aristotelean influences, then we can, but elsewhere. However, your comprehension of Aquinas’s understanding of God’s infinitude is obstructed by your LDS lenses. I now understand why you greet my comments with arrogance and disdain, which weakens your ethical resolve when discussing with others that are not a part of your faith. Although many of my Mormon friends have not met my comments with sardonic superlatives, you have represented your faith with an eschewed arrogance. This disdainful attitude exists as the impetus for my continued studies. To assume that I was not or am not a member of the LDS church only magnifies this absurdity. Although I am no longer an active member, I am aware of LDS doctrines; you met my question of how can a discussion of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s infinitude receive serious consideration when Heavenly Father possesses a resurrected body, when Heavenly Father was a created being himself with the same circular logic from two “prophets” whose prophecies and doctrines of God (Brigham presented antitheses to Joseph’s revelatory notions of God) collapse within the context of their own texts, The Book of Mormon the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Journal of Discourses. This attitude is not becoming, nor does it help to bridge the interfaith possibilities.
The five classical proofs of God’s existence is not based on your ex post facto understanding of God. It is based on his ruminations, his depth of prayer, his depth of study, and his unsinkable faith. When Thomas asserts “there are three ways of knowing a thing…”, he is speaking from a specific context which you did not explain nor address.
1. According to the second of Aquinas’s five proofs, some THINGS are caused, anyTHING is caused by another, and there can’t be an infinite series of causes. So, there must be a first cause (a cause that isn’t itself caused by another). This is God.
Now, let’s examine the statement Joseph made coupled with a summary of a later statement:
–We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.?¢Ç¨¬ù The Prophet then explained that the Father once lived as a mortal on another earth and ?¢Ç¨?ìworked out his salvation with fear and trembling?¢Ç¨¬ù?¢Ç¨Äùpresumably under his Father and his God.(TPJS 345, 347)
The circular reasoning provided by Joseph, that he knows this because it was revealed to him and because it was revealed to him, then it was true does not successfully explain how this is possible. To illustrate this endless throng of Creators who keep creating other creators who keep creating other creators is nebulous and inconsistent with Natural Law. Who, or what, therefore has the template for creation, if we dare utter those terms? It must begin somewhere. Thankfully, Thomas’s explanation is anchored in scripture:
1. Is. 44:6; “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
2. Is. 43:10; “You are my witnesses,” says the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.”
3. Psalm 86:10; “For thou art great and doest wondrous things, thou alone art God.”
4. Gal. 4:8; “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods`.”
5. Mark 12:29-32; “Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he`.”
The Ancient Israelites believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that no other thing existed before God. This notion is consistently shared with the early church communities, as well evidenced in John’s community, considering the Book of Revelations was derived from an originally Jewish work. Before the expulsion from the synagogue, James’ community did not worship God differently, except that they acknowledged Jesus as the fulfillment of the Torah. The human and the divine were not and could not be confused by the idea presented by Joseph Smith: Jesus and God are two literally separate persons. The word in person found in Hebrews 1:1-3 means substance. Thus, the Ancient Israelites and early Christian communities would not have viewed God as a being with flesh and blood.
Allow me to telegraph several punches you will throw:
1. We did not have the fullness of the Gospel until God’s prophet Joseph Smith restored it, through God’s power and will, upon the earth.
2. That the Ancient Israelites acknowledged other gods revered by the neighboring communities. Thus, the mentioning of other gods acknowledges that they themselves believed other gods existed.
Or event the statement you quoted by Brigham Young, ?¢Ç¨?ìHow many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity?¢Ç¨¬ù, although an interesting and paradigm-shifting comment, is again conjecture and without support. The statement exacerbates the logical inconsistencies attached to the argument: (1) Joseph and Brigham Young both believed men lived on the moon, which has now been proved as erroneous. (2) The ethos of Manifest Destiny was prevalent during the time of Brigham Young–especially since the early LDS community were primogenitors in this movement. Thus, their perspectives were highly influenced by forms of thought, like those expressed during the age of enlightenment, that did not exist during the nascent stages of Christianity. What shaped LDS thinking of prophets and leaders alike were in the shadow of their awareness; the shadow is there, but ignored.
The doctrine of God(s) expressed by Brigham Young and shared by many believers is, however, not supported by the Book of Mormon. Alma 18: 26-28 states, “And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” Whereas D&C 130:22 states, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” If the doctrine of God is expressed in one text, which is purported by the church as the keystone of our religion, yet another sacred text expressly contradicts this idea, then which text is to be believed? Which prophet got it wrong? Alma? Joseph Smith? To clarify, one refers to God as “Spirit”, which is consistent with the Ancient Israelite tradition from where it originates, the other refers to God as having a body of “flesh and bones”, which text should I believe concerning the nature of God?
Now, let us compare apples to apples. The Book of Moses chapter two, verse one states “AND it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest”; within the Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Abraham comes a pearl of great contradiction: “AND then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.” The question of who is God cannot be answered when four disparate perspectives cannot resolve the dissonant tones.
“In truth, isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t the Bible filled with examples where fellow sinners have come to know and love God more deeply and more clearly THROUGH their own sins and repentance process?”
To come and know God more deeply through this process requires mercy and compassion from Him whom we receive it from; moreover, to be more resolutely transformed, we begin to see the world through His eyes and not our own. The notion of a worse sin presumes a better sin exists, or that some sins are easier to forgive than others. I cannot answer that for you, or for anyone else because that is part of our subjective relationship with God. Again, the statement presents a marginalization of God and sin, limiting it to how you perceive it than what it actually is.
Furthermore, where you claim I am judgmental, you exact a similar judgment on me. This is problematic, considering you do not know who I am or to what and where my struggles belong. What is sad and mistaken is to represent the side of compassion and mercy, yet not show it. It is a sadness that I pray passes, because it is a sadness that unnecessarily divides our attempt to unite humanity through the message of Christ. I do not see people as being rude (a poor inference) nor do I see them as insensitive, since that would require an understanding of what it is they are crying justice for. My heart goes to people who despise someone because of their skin color. My heart goes out to people who despise someone because of their religious beliefs. My heart goes out to people who despise someone because they are seen as living in sin, when there is no irrefutable proof that they are not.
Lastly, those who cry forgiveness and repentance do so with compassion, just as Christ exemplified, to non-believers. Sure, Christ was most vigilant with those whom were connected to the community He represented (Pharisees, Saducees, Zealots) Yet, those who KNOW God understands sinners and sin, which includes themselves. They see the humanity through a transformed perspective–a perspective transformed by Christ–not their own perspective, and can forgive as Jesus did while being executed, before his mortal flame extinguished: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
So, to those who are spray-painting the Los Angeles temple, to those who are yielding signs with insidious messages as “Go Away with Your Magical Underwear”, to those same-sex couples who are kissing in response to protests from members who yell “Marriage is between a man and a woman, you will never be a man and a woman, to those who have singled the LDS organization as a primary influence as to why the Prop 8 failed, how will we respond?
I cannot take seriously the idea that God has simply existed forever (an uncaused cause???)or that He came into existence out of nothing, any more than you take Joseph Smith?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s teachings seriously.
[The circular reasoning provided by Joseph, that he knows this because it was revealed to him and because it was revealed to him, then it was true does not successfully explain how this is possible.]
Acquinas?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s own definition that God simply exists-and was not created ?¢Ç¨Äúdoes not successfully explain how it is possible either. Acquinas also believed that God is simple, without a body or soul, parts or passions, without form or matter of any kind. BUT he also believed that God is perfect and lacks nothing. This makes no sense, because if you lack nothing, then you must have everything. How did God create something for humans that He Himself lacks?
[To illustrate this endless throng of Creators who keep creating other creators who keep creating other creators is nebulous and inconsistent with Natural Law. Who, or what, therefore has the template for creation, if we dare utter those terms? It must begin somewhere.]
But Acquinas did not believe in just Natural Law. He also believed in Divine Law and Mortal Law and Eternal Law. If as you insist, God did not have a beginning, nor does He need one, then I insist that the ?¢Ç¨?ìendless throng of Creators?¢Ç¨¬ù doesn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t need to have a beginning either. Once God created all things-wouldn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t creation then HAVE a template? If He cannot be limited in any way (you said) then you cannot limit the number of worlds He creates, or the number of His children He creates, or the number of Gods He creates. If you believe that God cannot create other Gods-you are placing limits on God.
[Is. 44:6; ?¢Ç¨?ìThus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ?¢Ç¨?ìI am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
The Hebrew word used here for ?¢Ç¨?ìGod?¢Ç¨¬ù-is PLURAL-elohiym, not singular-elowahh. This PLURAL form is used 2606 times in 2249 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV. The Hebrew words for ?¢Ç¨?ìfirst?¢Ç¨¬ù, ?¢Ç¨?ìlast?¢Ç¨¬ù and ?¢Ç¨?ìbeside?¢Ç¨¬ù used here ALSO have alternative meanings that allow this verse to fall into perfect symmetry within the context of LDS doctrine.
[Allow me to telegraph several punches you will throw:]
Presuming to know what I might reply with, and define it as punches is fairly sardonic and arrogant isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t it? I would not have used either argument because they are both flawed. For Joseph to ?¢Ç¨?ìrestore?¢Ç¨¬ù something, it would have had to exist previously and been lost, and I don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t consider what Ancient Israelites said about ?¢Ç¨?ìother Gods?¢Ç¨¬ù to be evidence that they themselves actually believed in the God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s worshipped by outsiders.
Ancient Israel couldn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t even believe in or live the law given to them by Moses WHILE Moses was still among them. I believe that the pre-mortal Jesus is the ?¢Ç¨?ìGod?¢Ç¨¬ù that spoke to and guided Israel in the O.T and because He had not been mortally ?¢Ç¨?ìborn?¢Ç¨¬ù yet, of course he did not have a body of flesh and blood. Is it any wonder then that they didn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t believe in a ?¢Ç¨?ìflesh and blood?¢Ç¨¬ù God? It would have been far more puzzling if they had.
The New Testament indicates that Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s body was resurrected and that when He appeared to His apostles after His crucifixion, they DID touch and feel his very physical/mortal and very resurrected body. He eats and drinks just like He did mortally. He also appeared as flesh and blood before more than 500 other people after His death. If God could exalt His son, and His son inherits His power and glory, doesn’t His son then become able to exalt others?
B. H.Roberts once said ?¢Ç¨?ìAs long as the throne of Jesus Christ stands sure, so long as His spirit remains in His immortal body of flesh and bones, glorified and everlasting, and shall keep His place by the side of the Father, so long will the doctrine that God is an exalted man hold its place against the idle sophistries of the learned world.?¢Ç¨¬ù
If you say that a God cannot have a resurrected and perfected body, you not only limit God, but you also dethrone the resurrected Christ. If Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s infinitude is unaffected by being housed within a perfected mortal body, why would God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s be?
[?¢Ç¨?ìMy heart goes to people who despise someone because of their skin color. My heart goes out to people who despise someone because of their religious beliefs. My heart goes out to people who despise someone because they are seen as living in sin, when there is no irrefutable proof that they are not.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
You know, if I honestly and sincerely consider all the people I either know well enough to accurately determine their feelings, or who are publicly vocal enough that there could be no doubt, I cannot think of even one person in my acquaintance that actually loathes or detests someone else because of their skin color, religious beliefs, or lifestyle; sinful or not. I am blessed to live in a community that embraces people of all colors, nationalities, religious beliefs and lifestyles. It is very possible that there might be some closet racists or religious bigots, or even unmerciful neighbors among us, but to my knowledge, and that of my husband, I have neither seen nor heard irrefutable proof of such behavior among the Saints that we know and love.
I have no idea what color your skin is, or what the sum of your religious beliefs are, or whether or not you are living in sin, and I do not despise you currently, and should you reveal the status of each and all, it would change nothing. I have friends of all ethnic combinations and always have, and also have friends of various faiths. One of my best, lifelong friends is a devout Catholic. But I am fairly certain that ALL of my friends of my friends and loved ones are sinners in some way or another right along with me. (how many times do I have to say that I count myself a sinner as well?)
[?¢Ç¨?ìis a sadness that unnecessarily divides our attempt to unite humanity through the message of Christ.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
Until humanity agrees upon the whole of Christ?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s message, not to mention the divine truth of who He was and is, such unity isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t even possible.
[?¢Ç¨?ìLastly, those who cry forgiveness and repentance do so with compassion, just as Christ exemplified, to non-believers.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
He cried repentance and forgiveness to those who were ?¢Ç¨?ìbelievers?¢Ç¨¬ù too. But I would love for you to define for me if you will what ?¢Ç¨?ìcrying repentance and forgiveness with compassion?¢Ç¨¬ù looks like?¢Ç¨¬¶sounds like. Define for me how Christ acted as He was doing it, as clearly as you can, so that I can compare my own compassion with His.
[?¢Ç¨?ìYet, those who KNOW God understands sinners and sin, which includes themselves.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
I agree. See previous post(s).
[?¢Ç¨?ìThey see the humanity through a transformed perspective?¢Ç¨Äúa perspective transformed by Christ?¢Ç¨Äúnot their own perspective, and can forgive as Jesus did while being executed, before his mortal flame extinguished: ?¢Ç¨?ìFather, forgive them for they know not what they do.?¢Ç¨¬ù]
Have you ever wondered why Jesus asks His FATHER to forgive His executioners instead of saying ?¢Ç¨?ìI forgive them Father, for they don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t know what they do?¢Ç¨¬ù??
[?¢Ç¨?ìSo, to those who are spray-painting the Los Angeles temple, to those who are yielding signs with insidious messages as ?¢Ç¨?ìGo Away with Your Magical Underwear?¢Ç¨¬ù, to those same-sex couples who are kissing in response to protests from members who yell ?¢Ç¨?ìMarriage is between a man and a woman, you will never be a man and a woman, to those who have singled the LDS organization as a primary influence as to why the Prop 8 failed, how will we respond??¢Ç¨¬ù]
Where did you get information that the L.A. Temple had been ?¢Ç¨?ìspray painted?¢Ç¨¬ù?
I will respond as I always do-pray for them and hope that their hearts are softened and that their anger dissipates. I do not yell or carry signs with insidious messages (or even polite ones for that matter). How everyone else responds is entirely a matter of choice.
I would also hope that someday they are able to honestly contemplate several facts, like even if every single LDS member living in California (and that includes all the members that are TOO young to even vote yet) had voted in the first place, AND all had voted ?¢Ç¨?ìYes?¢Ç¨¬ù to Prop 8 (which we know they didn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t) they would have comprised only about 7% of the 11 million people who voted, and only 13% of the ?¢Ç¨?ìYes?¢Ç¨¬ù voters. BUT-the figures are actually far smaller than that when calculating how many of the approx 770,000 LDS members that actually live in California were old enough to vote, and did vote ?¢Ç¨?ìYes?¢Ç¨¬ù.
This means that 87% of the ?¢Ç¨?ìYes?¢Ç¨¬ù voters were not LDS-they were simply California residents who agree with Prop 8 and have the right to vote their conscience. Was the Church somehow able to brainwash or change the minds of more than 4 million intelligent, informed people? Or were all those people stupid and uninformed? Either response is insulting and without evidence.
And because the LDS Church was focused on California, I can only wonder, who do gays and gay supporters see as the ?¢Ç¨?ìprimary influence?¢Ç¨¬ù behind the two other states that also passed bans on same-sex marriage last week? (Arizona and Florida)
It’s very late and we?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ve high-jacked this thread far and beyond its original intent. All we are doing is arguing over doctrines we obviously do not agree on, so I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ll just take my disdainful attitude and leave you to your continued studies.
1. Aquinas’s definition was paradoxical. God cannot be defined. Finite creatures cannot define the infinite, which in this case is God.
2. If Aquinas believed God to be infinite, then how could he perceive God as simple? Although Aquinas starts his projects stating “God is simple”, starting with simplicity offers a good way of introducing a range of things we cannot say about God?¢Ç¨Äùjust what Aquinas promised he would be doing. The Trinity became marginal after Aquinas, with that the doctrines of God had also become marginalized.
The classical Trinitarian perspective has been under siege because it has been torn away from its primary context. When Gordon B. Hinckley stated that it is too hard to understand the orthodox notion of the Trinity, it is because many, like Hinckley, try to understand it empirically. They do not understand the grandeur of its mystery. It has also been criticized from being remote from our experience. Certainly the psychological perspective has its strength, but it does not do enough justice in the personal experience of the Trinity. We know the Trinity from God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s operation and the psychological perspective does not strengthen that notion. It is not enough.
3. The name of God, Elohim, is used in Elohistic (Priestly) sources found within the Elohistic traditions. Yahweh is used in Yahwistic texts found in the Yahwist sources. Elohim is derived from the Ugarritic, which is connected to the Canaanite god El. The separation of the two sources are found in Genesis. The first source, the priestly source, is found in Genesis 1:1-2:3; the Yahwistic source follows. The meaning you discovered to be in perfect symmetry with LDS doctrine is your assumption based on etymology. Moreover, referring to Christ as “Jehovah” is based on a mistranslation of Yahweh. It is disconnected from the Ancient Israelite tradition. It also implies a polytheism that disconnects us from the traditions embodied and emboldened in Christ.
Here is the issue: The Logos becomes incarnate in Christ; the point does not deflate Christ somehow, but acknowledges his role in salvation while at the same time preserving monotheism. If Christ is divinely identical as God is divine, then we have compromised monotheism. If preserving monotheism while still acknowledging His very important role as a human is necessary, then it is equally necessary to preserve His humanity.
The LDS view on Christ creates Jesus as a kind of demiurge, more than any sort of creature, but lesser than the immutable God. If you have these pure forms that are untouched, how do you get creation in the first place? How does this connection occur? It becomes a kind of dualism, where being is divorced from becoming. It is a clash of one framework with another.
4. The Wisdom tradition, apocalyptic literature, and understanding the culturally operative forms of thought, mainly Platonism and other Hellenistic influences, can assist in understanding who Jesus was praying to when he exemplified forgiveness while being persecuted and dying on the cross.
Jesus was no less God when praying to God His Father in Heaven. When the Son as God is praying or talking to the Father as God, they possessed an eternal relationship before Christ took upon Himself humanity. In His humanity, this relationship is depicted in the Gospels so we can see how the Son of God in His humanity carried out His Father’s will so redemption could be won for all (John 6:38).
5. “This means that 87% of the ‘Yes’ voters were not LDS-they were simply California residents who agree with Prop 8 and have the right to vote their conscience.”
Nice middle ground fallacy. If 13% of my community is racist, it doesn’t mean that I live in a racist community because I am not racist. That makes the issue of racism go away. If 87% of all churches allow African-Americans to hold clerical positions within their church, and our church is one of those churches that forbid African-Americans from holding any office of the priesthood, that doesn’t mean all of our members are racist. That makes it better. If voting your conscience means legislating morality for others, then why not ban divorce because of the alarming divorce rate? Wait…let’s not stop there! Why not empower the government to arrest couples performing non-kosher acts of sex? And from where does the conscience LDS members originate? A community that once embraced polygamy and was persecuted for that belief. Empathy, not opposition should have been championed.
An aside: These passive-aggressive kiss-offs that are present at the end of your messages are puzzling. This “I’ll just take my ball and go home!” attitude isn’t consistent with the demeanor of your arguments. I have enjoyed our disagreements and look forward to hijacking other threads with you!
Stephan, in his book “A New Earth”, Eckhart Tolle offers insightful comments about how the ego behaves, especially on pages 66-69. Enigma’s ego is no match for the strength of yours when it comes to theological arguments, but you might also find Tolle’s comments useful if your ultimate objective is to find truth and the experience of beloving.
In light of your references to the theology of Western Christianity in your responses to Enigma and Rabbi Gershon, are you aware of Professor James R. Payton Jr.’s “Light from the Christian East”? I am amazed at Payton’s insights and the clarity of his descriptions of the key distinctions between the rational Christian West and the mystical, emotional and existential Orthodox Christian East.
From a fellow hijacker.
I love Eckhart Tolle! I have not read “A New Earth”, but since you have recommended it, I will.
Moreover, I have not read Professor Payton’s book, but I am familiar with who he is. As a child, my grandmother, who was Greek, lived with us. She often took me to the Greek Orthodox Church (Antioch). I loved the liturgy, enjoyed saying matins, and connected with a part of my heritage that would have been lost on me if my grandmother had not imposed her will.
The rational Christian West’s construction can be lauded or blamed on two primary figures: St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Plato’s influence on Augustine is inseparable; whereas, Aristotle’s playbook is pervasively layered throughout his Summa.
Since you have graciously recommended several texts, let me recommend something I believe you will enjoy, if you haven’t already read it: Thomas Merton’s “Wisdom of the Desert”. It is published through New Directions, which has published many of the Beats and many of their “under the radar” influences. It houses a collection of wisdom sayings from monks who retreated into the desert. Mystics and Mendicants is a singular course offered at the seminary, thus there is not much offered with regards to mysticism. It is gravely taken for granted influence on early Christianity and rarely surfaces in the Western Roman rite tradition. You are more than right: it is worth exploring.
I have responded to some of your comment #281 in comment #129 of the “Saviors on the Mt. Zion” thread, where it fits in especially well.
Your experience with the Greek Orthodox tradition of your grandmother, together with your Roman Catholic upbringing and your more recent Mormon temple endowment and sealing experience with your new family as its patriarch, provides you with an extraordinary opportunity for becoming more truly conscious in terms of Ken Wilber’s levels and lines in his “Kosmic” consciousness map, where “Kosmic” includes and transcends “cosmic” (physical universe) awareness.
When I interviewed Fr. John Hennies of the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) recently, I went over every single word in the Chrismation (confirmation) procedure that he will be reading soon for me in the official ceremony. This is because I want to enter into the Russian Orthodox tradition of my father and forefathers with my whole heart, without reservation. After we finished a rigorous discussion he looked at me and said simply, “You have been Orthodox since your *conception*.” As he said that I had a rush of recognition and knew he was correct. Then a new realization occurred to me about my own *birth* experience, when the spirit of Joseph Smith attached itself to me, probably at the throat. (I was a blue baby and almost didn’t make it, so my Mormon mother once told me.)
What this means to me is that my Mormon ecclesiastical experience (from birth in 1933 to the second excommunication in June 1992) has now been embraced, included and transcended by my Orthodox experience. The entire OCA community will be electing a new metropolitan (their top ecclesiastical leader) tomorrow morning in Pittsburgh, after having deposed the former one last August for long standing corruption. They are following the ancient process of choosing their new leader by drawing lots under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the same process that Jonah and his shipmates utilized centuries before to calm a troubled sea.
I had a dream long ago (between my two Mormon excommunications) where I am with family and friends announcing that the Lord wants a complete reorganization of the Church, “beginning with the old men at to top”. I told that dream to the SP conducting the 1992 disciplinary council proceedings and he used it as further evidence to support his decision to excommunicate. When I learned last August that a relatively new OCA priest had written an open letter to the OCA community on the Internet, which had galvanized a reluctant Synod of bishops to act to correct their long term top level corruption, I felt it was time to apply for membership. I am excited to have been accepted by them just as I am!
I hope that we, you and I, if no one else is interested, can maintain our dialogue and share our respective experiences. I believe we have much to teach each other.
Comments are closed.