What’s More Important? Bowing Your Head or Closing Your Eyes

There is a concept of form versus function. The form of something can be related to how to shoot a basketball and the function of something can be related to scoring a point. Which is better: how the ball is shot or that the shot goes in? If it is a bad shot, it wont go in, but you can’t have a shot go in if there was no shot in the first place. With that said, most people instinctively place more value on the function, scoring the point. This way of thinking requires a person to take a position that says “it doesn’t matter how one shoots the ball because if it goes in every time then it’s working”. So does it matter? In our world, there seems to be tried and tested ways of shooting a basketball that make some ways better than others; NBA players don’t chuck ol’ granny shots. It would be silly if someone tried to argue that you can score a point without first using some kind of form to project the ball in the air, yet sometimes, people try to reach a desired function without considering and learning the proper form.

To relate this to the gospel, the tried and tested ways (form) of spiritual learning are things such as praying, reading scriptures, going to places of worship, etc. So what is the function? I would suggest it is to be able to “[put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). Engraved into the form of the gospel are valuable lessons that teach the observant student the function mentioned above. Those who cannot develop the ability to see with spiritual eyes will certainly fail to see the function within the form.

Reasons That People Overlook Form

Some people tend to veer away from religious ceremonies and rituals because they feel they are taboo forms of finding spirituality. It’s likely that these people begin to see the form as a barrier or even an irritant to their learning. A sign that this way of thinking has begun to take root in someone’s life could be when they feel they identify as a spiritual person but not religious. In their minds, the form becomes a barrier to their learning and is therefore deemed unnecessary for spiritual experiences. Vanessa Ochs, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, affirms that there has been a rise in individuals who proclaim spirituality but not religiosity (Newman). She discusses how individuals seek to separate the two by using different types of rituals such as yoga and meditation classes (Newman). They are able to find spirituality without going down the road of traditional religiosity. Consequently, in the world, the use of ceremonies and rituals are not declining but are changing.

It is also possible that people think they have nailed the function and therefore, disregard the form. At this point, the form has either already become or is on its way to becoming, merely routine; the routineness says there is nothing left to gain. Though the student may not consciously accept such as true, their actions begin to program the mind with a misleading idea that form is “not as important” as the function. When the vision of the form is lost the vision of the function is soon to follow.

Recently, in the Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there were a few changes made to the form or practices of the church: the shortening of the three hour church block as well as the changes made in the temple. These are changes in the form but not the function. The shortening of the church block could be seen as less time required from members of the church or it could be seen as a call to spend more time focusing on the family (Nelson). Adjustments that steer the minds and hearts of the people towards the function are important, otherwise mindlessly following the form could creep in.

If the question ‘why?’ is not asked frequently enough then the forms of spiritual worship will not be properly understood. If the form is not properly understood then there will not be high scoring spirituality. Here are a few examples of this:

Prayer

Getting back to the title of the paper, maybe their is not a right answer. Maybe for one person closing their eyes is the most important part of what makes a prayer, a prayer. For another person it could be the bowing of the head or the eloquence of the words spoken. Are we allowing the form of our prayer guide us to the function of it?

In a talk given in 1978 called The Prayer of Faith by Thomas S Monson, he taught prayer by referencing the following:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Sometimes words alone don’t accurately convey how we feel inside so our actions help us speak. William Shakespeare articulated a very similar idea behind effective prayer, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” (Shakespeare). In this instance it’s not even the words that matter but the thoughts. President Dallin H. Oaks of the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught a principle he named ‘The Special Language of Prayer’. He taught that: 

The words we use in speaking to someone can identify the nature of our relationship to that person. They can also remind the speaker and listener of the responsibilities they owe one another in that relationship. The form of address can also serve as a mark of respect or affection…The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches its members to use special language in addressing prayers to our Father in Heaven.”

It’s not the words we use or the form we take in prayer that truly matters; it is the intent behind those things that matter.

Furthermore, C.S. Lewis teaches that our bodies affect our spirit more so than we realize. In the context of prayer, C.S. Lewis adds “At the very least, [humans] can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for [the humans] constantly forget what the [devils] must always remember, that [humans] are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”

Our actions, even the form of our prayers signals to both the child and the Father what is developing within. Maybe, more importantly, the prayer experience resembles a sort of measurement to the child of their current progress on their covenant path back to their Father in Heaven.

Wearing Garments

This concept can be applied to many other practices in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, the wearing of sacred garments. Can a person have a heart intending to do good and serve God but not wear sacred garments? Yes! Then why does God ask members of His church who have received their temple endowments to wear garments? Perhaps because the wearing of the sacred garment is supposed to serve as instruction to the individual of eternal things. Suppose every time someone woke up and got ready for the day they saw their morning rituals (showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc) as a means of preparing their soul, body and spirit, for the remainder of the day rather than just doing what you do because that’s what you have always done.

When putting on garments becomes just another article of clothing you put on your body then the function is lost. This from of worship serves a very sacred function. When putting on garments, one is putting on Christ and His atonement (Gal. 3:27). It is beneficial to realize and ultimately feel that every morning. Hopefully, one day, the daily feeling of one’s garments on their skin will reflect the daily feeling in their heart of the Savior’s love for them.

Ordinances

Another example is in the ordinances found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some wonder why a good heart and faith in Christ is not enough. Why must we be baptized, go to church, receive blessings by the laying on of hands, go through the temple, serve the living and the dead, be married for time and all eternity? Nephi answered this very question by pointing our minds towards Christ’s exemplary ministry here on Earth:

And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. (2 Nephi 31: 6-7)

Even Christ, who is perfect and without sin, needed to be baptized in order to be obedient to God’s commandments. Certain forms were attached to His earthly ministry and ultimate function as Savior and Redeemer of the world. The ordinance of baptism, as well as all other ordinances are opportune times for God to instruct his children in light and truth. Embedded in and around each ordinance are symbols that points our minds and hearts towards Christ and His atonement, but only if one has eyes to see and ears to hear (Deut. 29:4). When one has spiritual eyes then surely God’s mind, will, and love is in plain view before us, “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest (D&C 84:20).

Temples

In conclusion, the best place to learn about God is in His house. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are able to enter into holy temples of God. In temples, God reveals his mysteries through the bestowal of light and truth. Temples are the ultimate example to the world of how people can divinely pattern their lives, both form and function. Cheryl B. Preston, a professor of Law at Brigham Young University, beautifully articulates how the temple illustrates the relationship between form and function:

“The interior furnishings and ornamentations of the Cardston Alberta Temple were all similarly designed to incorporate natural local elements and woods. The temple’s beautiful form naturally serves its function while, at the same time, the function gives meaning and value to each element of the form. Such was the fulfillment of Frank Lloyd Wright’s intent that form and function be one, as well as the LDS concept that heaven and earth can be joined in a temple” (Preston)

God has and will continue to teach His children the things of eternity within the walls of His temples. I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church here upon the Earth. Whether someone is just learning about the church or has been a lifelong member, there is always more to learn and I would suggest that a good place to start is looking at the forms of worship that God has provided then simply asking “Why?”.

“The Church’s function, joined to its form, creates the opportunities for the development of spiritual substance, a spiritual edifice in which members are owners who learn through personal experience and receive direct light from God as they strive toward salvation and exaltation” (Preston)

 

Lewis, C.S., The Screwtape Letters

Monson, Thomas S., The Prayer of Faith. 1978.

Nelson, Russell M., How Did The Church Change This Year. Official Newsroom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, December 17, 2018.

Newman, C., Evolution of Modern Rituals: 4 Hallmarks of Today’s Rituals. UVA Today, March 28, 2017.

Oaks, Dallin H., The Special Language of Prayer. 1993.

Preston, Cheryl B., The Spiritual Concept of Form and Function as One. BYU Studies Quarterly, Journal 53:3.

Shakespeare, W., Hamlet, Act III, scene 3.quoted by David o Mckay Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life.

 

God Exists: Aristotle’s Cosmological Argument 

 

Recently a friend of mine (Travis) sent me a podcast that featured an interview with Edward Feser, an American Philosopher. In the podcast he discussed modern day thought behind a few arguments for the existence of God. As I listened to Aristotle’s Cosmological argument for the existence of God, a scripture in the Book of Mormon came to mind, Jacob 4:13 “for the spirit… speaketh of things as they really are and of things as they really will be.” I text Travis back about the connection I found; a rather exhilarating conversation followed. My understanding of God’s omnipresence or “everywhereness” grew as did my appreciation and love for the grand Plan of Happiness.

Paraphrased argument for the existence of God:

   To begin, I will give a paraphrased account of Aristotle’s Cosmological Proof for the existence of God, as explained by Edward Feser in the Podcast. I will attach a link to the podcast episode and I will also include timestamps of when his explanation of the argument begins and ends, incase you want to hear it all. This is a powerful and moving subject to contemplate. I hope you enjoy!

(Start time 6:25) Change occurs all around us. Water in a cup that was cold is now lukewarm, and moving your hand through space are both examples of change. Change always involves the actualization of a potential. The water is potentially lukewarm, now it actually is lukewarm; my hand is potentially over there, now it actually is over there. The only way this is possible (according to the argument), for something to go from potential to actual, is if something was already in existence that was actual. So, if my hand was potentially to the left, the only way for it to become actually to the left is because of something in place that already is actual, for example the firing of nerves which causes the muscles to flex…and the only way for that to happen is if there are other nerves firing and that’s only possible if the nervous system exists and so on down the line of already actual things. Now, if there were not something at the bottom level that actualizes everything else without having to be actualized itself then there would be a vicious regression to nothing actual, to nothing at all. Crucial to this idea is that there must be a series of these so-called chang-ers, or causes, that extend not backward in time, into the past, but downward here and now. So my hand moves here and now because the motor neurons are firing here and now and those motor neurons are firing here and now because other neurons are firing here and now and that’s only possible because the nervous system is held together by its molecular structure. One level of reality actualized here and now by another actualized by another. You would have a vicious regress if there were not something at the bottom level HERE and NOW that actualizes everything else without having to be actualized itself. So this bottom level actualizer is purely actual and therefore moving other things or changing other things without itself being moved or changed; it’s a purely actualized actualizer or unmoved mover or unchanging changer. So if there were not something like this operating here and now, not just something that knocks down the first domino back at the big bang but something that is operating here and now, then there wouldn’t be change going on here and now. The basis of the argument is that the bottom level unchanging changer, or unmoved mover, or a purely actual actualizer must be God. Feser goes on to explain what this God must be like:

  • This unchanging changer can not change and all things that are changeable require time and space, so this being who is not susceptible to change must be outside the realm of time and space.
  • Material things are also all changeable in theory as they are made up of parts and can therefore, be changed or rearranged. So this unchangeable changer must be immaterial (1).
  • All things that manifest power in this world, power to pick up a drinking glass or power in an earthquake that causes boulder to roll down a mountain, are the result of a potential being actualized (change), so working back to something that actualizes every potential without being actualized then the source of every power activity in this world must be all powerful.
  • From these characteristics already listed you would then go on to argue that this being would have some sort of intellect or thought or will.

So we have some characteristics of the God described by Aristotle’s proof, all of which stem from the assumption that he is unchanging: outside the realm of time and space, immaterial, all powerful and possesses intellect.  (End time 11:30) (2)

God Exists: Change is all around us

     Before we dive into the scriptures I wanted to reference a couple scientific laws that will turn the mind in the right direction to contemplate some of the connections that will follow.

-The Law of Conservation of Energy is a physical law that states energy cannot be created or destroyed but may be changed from one form to another (3).

-The Law of Entropy says, “if you have a system that is isolated, any natural process in that system progresses in the direction of increasing disorder, or entropy, of the system” (4). Therefore, we can conclude that within a closed system, we will say our universe, change is all around us and always occurring in some form or another.

Now, here Are a few scriptures in the standard works that relate to the ideas presented in the argument. Hopefully a few dots will connect that expands our understanding of our loving Heavenly Father and His perfect Plan for us.

We know, based upon Aristotle’s cosmological argument, God is the unchanging changer who is at the bottom level of all changeableness around us and the source of all power activity in the universe. From studying this topic I found it interesting to consider God’s description of Himself as characteristics of not only Him but of our existence here upon this Earth. His characteristics make up the building blocks of our existence.

The first connection I found was from the ancient prophet Jacob found in the Book of Jacob, chapter 4 verse 13:

Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.

I saw “truth” as the unchanging changer, holding all things “as they are” (actualized) and therefore can determine “how things will be” (potential). Travis raised a question about the relationship between the spirit and truth and God: if the spirit speaks truth then where does truth come from, or does truth come from God making him the unchanging changer? A scripture relating to Travis’s question suggests an intimate relationship between four interrelated principles, “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (D&C 84:45). So, the Word of God = Truth and Truth = Light and Light = Spirit, even the spirit of Jesus Christ (5). Elder Uchtdorf in the October 2017 general conference referenced this same scripture as he taught the following doctrine, “The Light of Christ enlightens and saturates the souls of all who hearken to the voice of the Spirit. The Light of Christ fills the universe. It fills the Earth. And it can fill every heart” (Bearers of Heavenly Light).  Another definition of truth is found in D&C 93:24 and it reads, “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were and as they are to come.” Truth is a “knowledge of things”; it is not just “things as they are…”; therefore, truth must have a knower in order for truth to exist. I am proposing that maybe truth does not nor can not exist outside of God. In summation, a possible answer to Travis’s question is that truth comes from God which is His word which fills the universe through the capacitating agent of light which comes into contact with all God’s children though the spirit or Light of Christ found within each of us.

     To look a little further into the relationship pointed out by Elder Uchtdorf, let’s look at the relationship between these four things mentioned in D&C 84 from the perspective of Christ.

Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)

Jesus says “I am the law and the light” (3 Nephi 15:9)

Jesus says “I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth” (D&C 93:26)

Christ is the truth, He is the law (God’s word D&C 132:12 ), He is the light and He is the spirit (6). Christ is therefore “in all and through all things” (D&C 88:6). In connection with this, we know from the ancient prophet Alma that, “all things denote there is a God” (Alma 30:44). Aristotle’s argument illuminates how we can see Christ in all things; all things have the potential to change, or to go from potential to actual. We then should be able to find Christ in all things as Christ is unchangeable and therefore the source of all change (Mormon 9:19, D&C 20:17) (7).

At this point in the conversation Travis pointed out one take away from this: So whenever we are a witness to eternal truth the spirit is present because the two are the same! This is a powerful concept because it advocates for the importance of continual learning as a way to draw upon God and our relationship with Him. When we choose to study the scriptures and learn from them everyday we are choosing the spirit and therefore, God is present. When we choose to educate ourselves and to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith,” we are choosing the spirit (D&C 88:118). Travis went on to point out, “Basically Alma [the prophet] is saying, how can you believe there isn’t a God when there are truths that can’t be denied all around us…He is in every eternal truth”.

An important principle flowing from the idea of God’s everywhereness signaled by truths is that when we choose to disobey God’s word we are choosing to distance ourselves from Him; literally we are becoming less Godlike because we lose light and truth (2 Nep 28:30, D&C 93:39.) and therefore distance ourselves from Him. Think of it this way, not only are we losing spiritual connectivity to God but we also lose actual divinity or the spiritual substance of light and truth (8). So how does this relate to Aristotle’s argument? We, God’s children, are loaded with potential and are here on Earth to change. We are here to become more like our Father in Heaven or to become more actualized, more complete, which comes by increasing in light and truth until we are, “glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28). We are here to be changed by the ultimate enabler, the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, made possible through His atonement.

Answering the “How” of change: How change is possible in our world.

     Change occurs in humans as well in everything around us. How? First, change occurs in all things around us because everything around us operates within a set of natural laws. These laws are given by God and all things adhere to those laws set forth, which produces the change we see all around us. Change occurs in humans because of forces acting upon them and also because of our ability to choose change: change our habits, our minds, our desires, etc. What distinguishes the change in us from the change all around us is the gift of agency. As God’s children we have been given the ability to both obey God and disobey him. The prophet Lehi makes a strikingly similar argument to Aristotle’s argument for the existence of God; when you consider the relationship between God, law and change. Lehi’s argument is as follows:

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away” (2 Nephi 2:13).

Lehi says that if there was no law (the foundation for change) then there would be no God; Aristotle says that because there is change there is a God. Lehi says that if there was no law then all things would vanish away. Aristotle says something similar; if there was no fully actualized actualizer to stop the infinite regression then there would be nothing actual in the first place.

Earlier it was stated that Jesus Christ is the law, “I am the law and the light”. The presence of law suggests it can be either followed or not followed. Mother nature illustrates that physical laws are obeyed time and time again; if an anomaly is observed in nature that is not evidence of the law not being followed, instead it is evidence that some other unknown law is in affect. God, being all powerful and understanding all law, has developed a system which respects all its parts and ultimately honors Him, the law. This results in the change we see all around us.  Closely associated with physical law, or mother nature, is spiritual law which is just as real and just as measurable (9). When God’s children choose to obey His laws, they grow in light and truth and therefore grow in discernibility (Alma 32:35). When God’s children choose to disobey law they lose that light and truth, distancing themselves from God and distancing themselves from actualization. This choosing is possible because of posed opposition to the law, “therefore the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:16). Men and women have been, “instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men” (2 Nephi 2:5). The foundational grounding principle for choice to exist is law and opposition. Choice (agency) leads to change, either an increase in light and truth or a decrease in light and truth.

Someone may argue that you can’t link choice to change because there is change occurring all around us within inanimate objects, therefore change can’t be a product of choice. Maybe all things around us, that are not human, have forgone their agency by choosing to not partake in God’s gift of agency (10). I would like to further present the idea that choice is necessary for change to occur and evidence for this idea is found in the creation process recorded in the Book of Abraham, “And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed” (Abr 4:10,12). So how does and why does the land and water obey? Lehi also explains this idea of things being able to act, “And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the Earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (2Nep2:14).

Could it be possible that inanimate objects have exercised choice to obey law or in other words to obey Christ? Sounds like it! There have been talks and discourses on the subject but for the purpose of this article we will stick with what we know for sure, “unto every kingdom is given a law, and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions”. Christ is the law on this Earthly kingdom and has all power, even the power to move mountains, which power is wielded in perfect accordance with law and in perfect charity towards all men (D&C 88:40). During mortality, Christ is the law that we deal with, not justice (Alma 43:15). Because Christ stands “betwixt us and Justice” we are able to choose Him and receive His grace which enables us to change (Mosiah 15:9).

     An important application of this principle of choice and change is how it relates to receiving revelation. Obedience is central to our ability to receive revelation. As we obey we are promised light and truth which helps us to discern between what is good and evil. Light is the “law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:11). As we choose to obey the law we receive light which is “good because it is discernible.” That which is discernible is considered good. So if we want to know what we should do, we should obey the law to receive light which allows us to discern. Individuals can receive personal inspiration which is personal law; law which if they obey they will be blessed (11). Therefore we must always be obedient to God’s commands so we can have the light necessary to receive more laws that will guide our individual lives. For example, the law is for men and women to seek an eternal companion and be married in the temple – as you do your best to obey that law you will receive light regarding who you are to keep that law with (personal law). If someone is being obedient and seeking guidance from the spirit and the message they are getting is not discernible then it is not of God and is not good. If it is discernible then it is of God (1 Corinthians 14:33). When we are unable to discern God’s will for us in a given situation we must obey the general law He has given until personal revelation (a personal commandment) is received. If a person does not receive further light and knowledge pertaining to the overarching law of marriage then they are to proceed forward in obeying the law to marry, using their best judgement, nonetheless still seeking and being open to divine personal law. Same goes with seeking revelation to know which career to pursue. One should obey the general law to provide for their family and to seek to serve God by helping him fulfill His mission “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). If further revelation is desired then one must ask God for direction and council with him until her receives inspiration or even personal commands to seek a specific occupation. In either case the Lord has commanded us to act, it’s up to us to choose how we will obey.

    In closing, many ideas have been presented throughout this paper but perhaps the most important one is how Aristotle’s argument ties back to Christ and His infinite atonement. The first part of the paper laid out Aristotle’s argument for God’s existence; following that was scriptures and a few ideas around God’s character being the building blocks of our world and existence; lastly there were a few ideas presented about the practicality of how change is connected to choice and revelation. The whole intent of writing this paper was to convey some of the feelings and truths impressed upon myself and Travis while pondering and discussing this topic. The most powerful lesson I learned from the cosmological argument, and also the most difficult one to convey is that Christ’s atonement is a perfect expression of God’s love for each one of us. In some beautiful way His atonement has provided us with His grace which helps us to change, even the very worst of us, into beings who are “crowned with glory, even with the presence of the Father” (D&C 88:19).

Towards the end of our text conversation one thought that was shared was, “Having the same potential as God, one day we may find ourselves becoming the unmoved mover that two of our children are texting about while at work!” (12). So what will allow us to become actualized? Maybe it’s the grace of God made possible because of Christ’s atonement, and His atonement makes possible repentance which is change and therefore actualization of our potential. How would change be different without Christ’s atonement? Would Adam and Eve have been able to change if they had remained in the Garden of Eden? How does all of this tie back neatly into Aristotle’s argument? I am not totally sure yet.

 

Footnotes

  1. Latter-day Saint theology disagrees with this point that God is immaterial. We know Him to be of celestial substance having flesh and bone. Our limited understanding of matter in this physical world could allow for a substance that is seemingly immaterial but in actually has matter. D&C 131:7.
  2. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ben-shapiro-show/id1047335260?mt=2&i=1000418966785
  3. https://www.thoughtco.com/law-of-conservation-of-energy-605849
  4. https://www.livescience.com/50941-second-law-thermodynamics.html
  5. This is discussed extensively by both Richard D Draper in his talk “Light, Truth, and Grace: Three Interrelated Principles” and Cleon Skousen in his address titled “The Meaning of the Atonement”.
  6. Spirit here is referring to Spirit of a Christ; not to be confused with the Holy Ghost who is a member of the Godhead.
  7. In this paper I do not focus on the clear distinctions between God the Father, God the Son (Christ) and the Holy Ghost. For more information on their oneness as well as their individual roles and our relationship with each please refer to Bruce R. McConkie’s talk titled “Our Relationship with the Lord”.
  8. D&C 131:7; also properties of Light are that of both waves and particles. This is significant because scientifically light has a substance to it. D&C 93:39 states that Satan takes away light and truth through our disobedience.
  9. The Pearl of Great Price: A History and Commentary, pp.97.
  10. Not in any way teaching this as doctrine. Just a thought to consider.
  11. Personal commandments are given to individuals. This is referenced by Stephen R Covey in His BYU Speech titled “An Educated Conscience” as well by Elder Bednar in his BYU Idaho talk titled “Teach Them to Understand”.
  12. Another name for the Celestial Kingdom is eternal life or eternal progression. By definition that means eternal changing. This would seem to contradict God’s unchangeableness but I have a feeling it doesn’t. Bruce R. McConkie lightly touches on this in his speech titled “The Seven Deadly Heresies”.

 

Forgiven That We Might Forgive

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You know when you have put in considerable time and effort to learn something and yet you are not quite able to put it all together? Then one day, at a random time, while sitting down eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, things just click and start falling into place!? It is in these moments the spirit seems to arch between us mortals and heaven (1). Inspiration, in this way, is powerful and sometimes rather unexpected. While I was commuting home on the Oceanside Coaster, I listened to a talk by Stephen R Covey given at Ricks College and I had one of those moments. My recent studies fused with Covey’s talk and bits of truth started slotting themselves into place. It was a taste of pure joy, not just because of the truth I was learning, but because my whole perspective had changed. I saw ordinary things around me differently. Everything possessed meaning and revealed an apparent beauty. For example, I had a sudden interest in the lives of the people on the train with me; I was fascinated by the train tracks next to me and wondered how it all worked; as I looked up at the greenery outside my mind came alive with memories of different places I have visited around the world and the impact those travel experiences had on me! I did not want to lose the feeling, the rush of insight and clarity I was having. I was experiencing something so neat, a phenomenon I would describe as a “fresh view  about God, about oneself, and about the world” (Repentance: Bible Dictionary).

Finding the Power to Forgive

        A question I have pondered during my recent studies has been, “Can forgiveness result in an increasing amount of love towards those we need to forgive?” Hearing the stories of others who find forgiveness towards those who commit even the most serious sins are inspiring and leave me in wonderment; would I be filled with love and compassion towards another who, one day, may hurt me? The Savior’s command in the epistle of John “love one another as I have loved you” raises the bar of forgiveness, surpassing superficial love and arriving at Christ-like love (John 13:34). Because forgiveness is a deep and an expansive principle, I will focus on just one aspect of its application in our lives.

        I think sometimes people, including myself, have viewed the principle of forgiveness as less than what it is, specifically when considering the command to forgive others. It is looked at as a todo item, something that needs to be done so it can be checked off the list and put out of our mind so life can move forward. God’s forgiveness of our mistakes would never be described the same way because we know He loves us and will always, “draw near unto us as we draw near unto him” (D&C 88:63). Therefore, our forgiving of others offenses should follow suit; forgiving is beyond something we do, or eventually complete, instead forgiving is something we become.

        When the need to forgive walks onto the field of our lives, it means a law was broken and a heart was hurt. Whether that be our own heart or God’s heart, someone is hurt when another chooses to not obey the command, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…love thy neighbor as thyself.” Forgiveness operates around two guiding principles, both of which are attributes of God: mercy and justice. First let’s look at mercy as it relates to becoming a forgiving person.

Stephen R. Covey commented, “Your ability to forgive will come because you have received so much forgiveness yourself” (2). Incredible! Prior to hearing this I have exclusively thought of forgiveness in the context of God’s command to His children that we must forgive others in order to be forgiven:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15 & D&C 64:9-10).

The command to forgive is clear and unalterable, so how do we obey? Covey’s comment provides insight to how we can enact mercy; we must first experience forgiveness in order to be able to forgive others. In other words, we can forgive because He first forgave us; He showed us the way, He gifted us His love (Eph 4:32, Holland 3). Covey’s comment parallels the scripture, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The Father and Son showed us the way to love others by first loving us. Think about it this way, all of God’s children are subject to sin and, therefore, must rely upon the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to overcome the mortal effects which we have chosen to become entangled in. Reminding ourselves of this commonality, gives place for a humble heart, a heart prepared to forgive, a heart prepared to love. King Benjamin teaches:

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true (Mosiah 4).

It seems paradoxical that by remembering our unworthiness we are actually made ripe to be filled with God’s love, which in turn increases feelings of worthiness. To forgive others, we must understand that because we received forgiveness it is possible and also correct to see others as worthy of the same blessing, the blessing of mercy. An often sung hymn rings the same truth, “Because we have been given much we too must give.” A musical artist, Trevor Hall, relays the same message in the lyrics of his song titled “Forgive”:

Forgiveness is for giving

So give yourself this gift from time to time

And let all of your mistakes

Become all of your greatest gifts

In disguise

As we humbly seek a recognition of God’s infinite mercy in our lives we will be filled with love and in turn, prepared to give the gift of forgiveness to others as well as to ourselves.

        Now a quick look at justice. To receive forgiveness from God, a person must align their will with God’s will, meaning they must repent (D&C 58: 42-43). It is not up to us to judge who has and who has not repented, therefore it is “required that we forgive all men” (D&C 64:10). God is a God of justice and we must trust that He will execute His justice upon all His children, for He is “no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:35). This “trust” in God’s justice is named by one BYU professor of psychology, a “justice claim” (4). By trusting in God’s character, or in other words by making a justice claim, we can move forward knowing each individual will receive fair judgement. Moving forward from hurt and anguish caused by an offense can and should be coupled with our love for all His children.

        To me, forgiveness seems to be less of an action or something we do and more of a attitude or a condition found inside ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, there are important actions and steps we must take to forgive another, however, the ultimate goal of forgiving another is to become like Christ, to become forgiving in our very natures. It takes understanding God’s mercy and justice (Alma 41:14); it takes peeling back the layers of the natural man to reveal the Christ within (Mosiah 5:12); it takes casting away the ill thoughts of others that justify our hurt; it takes burying our personal evils that we may be filled with the love of God (Alma 24:19). It is the love of God that will give place in our hearts to forgive. Stephen R Covey powerfully articulates the fruits of being filled with the love of God in relation to forgiveness:

The tendency to be a judger and a critic is so lessend; you won’t even be offended, ‘And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.’ You cant even be offended, you might be temporarily but then you immediately give it up. Those who get offended deeply have not yet drawn deeply enough upon their true nature and drinking in a sense from this love that is so nurturing to the spirit (2).

I know as we focus our lives upon our Savior Jesus Christ, always repenting and striving for humble recognition of our divine potential, we will find the power and love to become a forgiver. Inside our individual weaknesses and mistakes, which are plenty, there is disguised a universal gift to be given, and hopefully one to be received as well–that of forgiveness because it is for giving.

  1. Maxwell, N. A. (2004). Free To Choose. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell_free-choose/
  2. Covey, S.R. BYU Speeches. https://.youtube.com/watch?v=lhUpE-jbbMk
  3. Holland, J. R. (1996). The peaceable things of the kingdom. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/the-peaceable-things-of-the-kingdom?lang=eng
  4. Fischer, L., Jackson, A. P. (2017) Turning a Freud Upside Down 2: more gospel perspectives on psychotherapy’s fundamental problems.

 

Fear of Missing Out: Joy Dwells in the Ordinary

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear are all of the best things in life.” –Will Smith (1)

          When I first listened to the motivational speech by Will Smith about conquering your fears, it rang true to me; fear holds me back from becoming who I hope to be. In his speech he used the example of skydiving to explain the pure bliss he felt falling towards the ground. Bliss came as a result of overcoming fear and jumping out of the plane; bliss was found “on the other side of terror”. Fear is more like a brick wall than it is a glass window pane; both prevent you from moving forward but one doesn’t let you see to the other side. Fear not only paralyzes us, it blinds us from seeing “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13). We may fear talking to a stranger, trying new things, monsters under our bed, not being happy, or making important life decisions. The reality is, fear comes in all shapes and sizes and should be recognized more often then when just jumping out of a plane. Fear prevents us from moving forward; it immobilizes our future, it hinders our learning, it turns away our service to others, it tears families apart, and out of it blossoms nothing greater than mediocrity. As children of the Most High God, we are meant for more than mediocrity, we are fashioned to become eternal beings. When we live in fear we fail to see who we may become and what we might have.

          The idea that we are better off conquering our fears rather than living in them is a theme strung throughout the media of today. How do we conquer our fears? The Nike company would answer Just Do It, your extreme sports enthusiast may add Send It, and Batman would tell you To Conquer Fear You Must Become Fear. All of these practices for conquering fear may or may not work under given circumstances; however, there is an unfailing way to push beyond fear no matter the circumstances. The way is love. The New Testament scriptures teach us that “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). The prophet Mormon teaches that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever…wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all.” (Moroni 7:46,47). We develop perfect love by paying the price for it. Mormon teaches that the price men and women must pay is to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7: 48). The phrase “all the energy of heart” implies that strenuous effort is required to attain the ultimate gift of charity, or perfect love. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect the greatest of all the gifts of God to just fall into our laps when we want it to. Instead, we should recognize that the receipt of and appreciation for the gift of charity comes only through the struggle to attain it; and that struggle will always require an individual acceptance of Christ’s ultimate suffering through His atonement.

          Now, I want to point out a fear I have noticed during my “laps around the sun” here on Earth. This fear is indigenous to the 21st century and has become widespread through current technology, media, and social media platforms. It is the fear of missing out (FOMO). Missing out on fame and popularity, wealth and economic status, praise and honors of men, a vacation to the beautiful beaches of Mexico, a good job and a multitude of friends, or worst of all a firing surf session in South Orange County. Closely associated with this fear of missing out is the fear that one is living an ordinary life, doing ordinary things and the belief that ordinary is somehow less than the extraordinary.

          Back to Will Smith’s speech; don’t misunderstand my use of his speech to imply that bliss is only found on the other side of an extreme jump or an extraordinary life event. Bliss can be found all around us, even in the most ordinary tasks. Satan, being the enemy to all righteousness, is “cunning” and wants you to believe you are not enough and therefore cannot be happy (2 Nephi 9:28). Satan preaches that happiness is found in competition, in being the very best at something, in the freedom from responsibility, in the easy ways to success, in easy vocations, in the adventures of a world traveler, in the pursuit of something new, in the most stimulating environments, and in the most sensualizing songs. In these cases, happiness may be present but it will last only for as long as you can keep up in the race. True and lasting happiness, even joy is found elsewhere. President Nelson, our current living prophet, teaches that joy is found by focusing our lives on our Savior Jesus Christ (3). Focusing our life on the Savior includes obedience to God’s law, a willingness to sacrifice all we have for Him, and consecrating our life to His work.

          Elder Neal A. Maxwell further illustrates this fear of missing out. Although he did not call it the same, I wish to reference his talk Grounded, Rooted, Established and Settled to help seal in the truths that joy dwells in the ordinary and that you are never missing out when you choose to put your Heavenly Father first:

Occasionally I see individuals who are meeting life’s challenges reasonably well but who unfortunately fail to appreciate the general adequacy of their response. They let the seeming ordinariness of life dampen their spirits. Though actually coping and growing, some lack the quiet inner-soul satisfaction which can steady them. Instead they seem to experience a lingering sense that there is something more important they should be doing or that their chores are somehow not quite what was expected, as if what is quietly achieved in righteous individual living or in parenthood is not sufficiently spectacular. Feeling unrequited as to role and feeling underwhelmed do not occur, however, because of a structural failure in this divinely designed second estate [life on Earth]. Rather they occur because of a lack of love, for love helps us to see and to respond to those opportunities which have been allotted to us and which lie unused all about us. –Neal A. Maxwell (2)

This quote illustrates what the fear of missing out may look like and feel like. Elder Maxwell says the absolute solution to this fear is love. He goes on to beautifully explain what life looks like to those who push past this fear and take the Holy Spirit as their guide:

With the Holy Spirit as our guide, our conscience stays vibrant and alive. Things which we had never supposed come into view. Seeming routine turns out to be resplendent. Ordinary people seem quite the opposite. What we once thought to be the mere humdrum of life gives way to symphonic strains. Circumstances or a mere conversation which look quite pedestrian nevertheless cause a quiet moment of personal resolve, and a decision affecting all eternity is made. Sometimes you and I even sense it as it happens, but there are no bands playing, and there are no headlines. Therefore, a very significant part of getting settled in one’s discipleship consists of coming to terms with the realities around us that seem so routine. Routine, like trials, can bring us closer to God or move us away from him. What seems commonplace seldom is.”—Maxwell (2)

          When we feel our daily living is not enough, or that we are not enough and that we are missing out on what the world or on what a group of friends has to offer, we must remember we are enough. You are a child of God, with a calling that is uniquely yours, and both of these truths make you enough. You cannot be everywhere and with everyone at once, only God can. Let us be like the Book of Mormon prophet Alma and be content with what God has given us to do (Alma 29:3). Frank Crane, an american minister wrote about the importance of finding joy in the ordinary:

I call that man truly converted, or enlightened, or born again, or emancipated, who has purged his soul of the lust of the exceptional; who has learned that the greatest fun in the world is to enjoy those pleasures of life that are common to all the race (4).

The only thing you can miss out on that directly impacts your lasting happiness is the perspective and love of God. Do not let the fear of missing out stop you from beginning a new chapter in life as a disciple of Christ, as a mother, as a father, as a leader of mankind. Your Heavenly Father loves you and believes in the seed of divinity that is planted in you. You are fashioned to do those things he has commanded you to do within your own personal circumstances and in your own beautiful way. The ordinary tasks of life are extraordinary when you share them with those you love the most.

 

  1. https://www.goalcast.com/2017/04/15/will-smith-bliss-other-side-fear/
  2. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell_grounded-rooted-established-settled-ephesians-317-1-peter-510/
  3. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/11/sunday-morning-session/joy-and-spiritual-survival?lang=eng
  4. Muir, L. J. (1928). Flashes from the eternal semaphore. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press.

The Beginning

To start things off…It was just a month into serving my two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah when I had questions that needed answers. I was in a tough spot, an uncomfortable place that I did not expect to be in, one which seemed to have little hope and little light. I wanted more than anything else to know that God lived. I searched, I prayed, I pondered and I found something small; small at the time. It was an interest in the scripture Alma 30:44. This scripture planted its seed of truth into both my mind and heart. By nourishing my mind through study and my heart through acting in faith, the small interest has grown into a tremendous desire to learn about God and His character. I have a testimony and conversion of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness and His divine patterns that lay scattered all around us.

” The scriptures are laid before thee, yea all things denote there is a God…

 

Light
“…yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” — Alma The Prophet