Theosis

“The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

“The difference between us [and God] is indescribably great, but it is one of degree rather than of kind.”

Hugh B. Brown

 

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Good Tree, Good Fruit

Funny how the same words can be spoken with opposite meaning depending on intent.  For example, an exasperated father can throw his hands up and say, “what more can I do?” as in, “he’s just so stubborn and will never learn. I want to ring his little neck! What more can I do?”  Or this could be a silent and sincere plea to the Lord for help as in, “Father, I have no more strength. My patience is expired. What can I do now to ensure that my son feels my love for him and Thine. What more can I do?”  The former perspective is self gratifying with an answer implied: nothing!  The latter acknowledges ignorance and hungers for enlightenment.

Try reading the questions below and see if you don’t feel the difference by simply switching perspectives.  Regardless of the answer, when humbly asked, these questions could rend the Heavens and call down inspiration from God or otherwise terminate any possibility of enlightenment:

What more can I do?

What’s so great about Isaiah? or

What can I learn from Isaiah that I can’t learn elsewhere in the scriptures?

Why should I study the Book of Mormon?

Isn’t the Bible sufficient?

Why would we need living prophets?

Isn’t the Holy Ghost enough?

Maybe the answer really is “nothing” or “we don’t” or “it is.”  But there’s only one way to ask where the answer isn’t predetermined.

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The Promised Messiah

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3)

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels. And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.(1 Nephi 19:7,9)

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.  And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7)

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:18-19)

God will provide himself a lamb. (Genesis 22:8)

Your lamb shall be without blemish. (Exodus 12:5)

Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. (Exodus 12:21)

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. (Isaiah 53:8-9)

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 25:8)

death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen. (Luke 24:5-6)

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (Luke 24:36)

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.  And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands andhis feet. (Luke 24:39-40)

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. (Zechariah 13:6)

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Limited Eternity

For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller.  But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape.  Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing.  The circle returns upon itself and is bound  The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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My New Mantra

Give me this mountain…”

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Victims of Vanity

Archeology is a funny science.  It is inherently non-testable, the evidence is always changing and hypotheses are constantly revised.  When rummaging through the rubble of the Ancients we should also remember that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.   Yet archeology is covetously defended by many and used by some to “prove” the non-existence of God.  (We partially addressed that here.)  But the best we can really hope for with Archeology is to believe a theory that is consistent with the data.  The problem is choosing a consistent theory; there are almost always more than one.  And this is true in many aspects of our lives.

We can all approach the same experience and draw very different conclusions.  A man struggling to get by pays an honest tithe and gets two job offers the following week.  He shouts praises to the Most High while his friend calls him petty and condescendingly recites, “post hoc ergo propter hoc.”  The thing is, it’s all in the past.  It is no longer a testable hypothesis for either party.  Yet both will feel satisfied, the one with reverence and the other with pride.

Religious or not we believe the explanation that is consistent with the data and our bias.  Our confidence in our own rightness is fortified.  The problem is, once we’ve accepted a set of premises that regulate our bias, the conclusions that follow rest upon something that cannot be proven.  So let’s at least be honest enough to admit the possibility that another theory is consistent with the data even though it aggravates our own bias.

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Bastiat was Wrong…

…but not for the reason you’re probably hoping.  Personally, I feel Frederic Bastiat was erudite in explaining the virtues of liberty and laws that maximize human dignity.  But he is wrong, or at least incomplete in his reasons for such strong opposition to it.  He wrote in The Law:

[W]hat is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty…. It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly due to a fatal desire — learned from the teachings of antiquity — that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.

Bastiat is only half right.  He is correct in assessing mankind’s lust for power and desire to rule but is overly optimistic about the universality of the desire to be free.  He ignores the complicity of the citizenry in the establishment of authoritarian forms of government.  Didn’t ancient Israel cry unto the Lord for the establishment of a king despite the litany of warnings from the prophet Samuel?  And why did they do it?  To be like other nations and for someone else (other than the Lord) to fight their battles.  They were willing to pay the heavy price for that privilege.

Philanthropic Tyranny, meet your willing citizens.

There is a more striking example that is uniquely Mormon, as far as I know.  We believe in a pre-earth life as spirit children of God.  Prior to the creation of the world, Heavenly Father presented a plan for us to progress, to be tested and according to our diligence and faith exalted.  Lucifer proposed a counter offer whereby none would be lost, all for the low low price of forgoing Free Will.  A full third of the hosts of Heaven followed Lucifer and were cast out.

So even in the presence of God there is something within each of us that is tempted to sell our liberty for a mess of pottage.  No wonder this is the great political struggle.

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Filed under Free Will, Politics, Various and Sundry

All Roads Lead Where?

Can it be true that many paths lead to Exaltation?  If it were, then all paths would be equal and equally true.  This can’t be because many belief systems are contradictory; resurrection and reincarnation are fundamental yet mutually exclusive doctrines.  But what if all belief systems have some truth?  I know this to be true because I felt it deeply as an eager teenager devouring the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, and other exquisite, primary sources.

All religions contain doctrines and principles that are true and can lead from enlightenment to enlightenment.  Mormons are perhaps more sympathetic to such a notion because we believe in the idea of revelation upon revelation, receiving line upon line, and as I’ve discussed earlier, we believe in an open canon.

We also believe that God has spoken to all nations at various times.  Sometimes undefiled records were kept and hid up to come forth as a voice from the dust as happened with the Book of Mormon.  But even without such a tangible first-hand account much truth, while corrupted by false traditions, endures among all peoples.

We also believe that the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of all things to those who honestly seek it, and that this is not an exclusive right limited to Latter-day Saints.  We will not receive a complete knowledge of all things all at once, but we can come to know truth when we hear it.

Organizations as well as individuals grow line by line.  The Lord did not reveal to Joseph Smith a perfect, complete organization, nor did He reveal such to Moses or Peter.  In fact, the Lord commanded Peter to preach the Gospel to all the earth.  To Peter that apparently meant all the Jews in all the earth.  It wasn’t until some time after the Ascension that Peter required and received a poignant revelation about preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 11).  Then even later, confusion arose about whether or not non-Jewish converts to Christianity ought to obey the parts of the Mosaic tradition still in force.  The Twelve met in council and received another revelation about which parts of the law were applicable to gentile converts (Acts 15).

Receiving enlightenment line upon line is a feature, not a flaw of how the Lord deals with His children and builds His kingdom.  So we should not be surprised when things change; we should expect it!  There are, of course, unalterable truths.  But there is nothing to indicate that institutions, organizations, or cultures are immutable.  Covenants are eternal, but the method of administration might change with no loss of generality.

Just because things change, however, doesn’t mean that many roads lead to a fulness of Salvation.  It means there are authorized servants of the Master who can navigate us through new terrain or provide a more perfect set of guidelines that suit current needs.

The challenge, then is to discover how to recognize truth and recognize who is authorized to make such alterations to the true path.  That will be left for another post.

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Filed under Free Will, God and Man, Philosophy

Astronomical!

What we really learn from Joseph Smith’s strange doctrine about other planets and stars:  A hundred years prior to the publishing of the theory of general relativity by the famous file clerk, a farm boy from Vermont declared that time is relative to the velocity of the planet on which one resides and the mass of the star the planet orbits.

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Free Will: Part I

I used to love storms, a good downpour accompanied by blasts of electricity tearing across the skies.  It is magnificent to see how the tree bark darkens and enriches the vitality of the colors that hang on the branches.  It used to fill me with exhilarated wonder.  Then I moved into a 50-year-old house in the midwest.  Now any serious rain means nothing but worry, dread even, that my basement will welcome the water from the saturated earth.  My reaction to storms has changed because of a change in circumstances.  As it started to rain again last night I wondered if I could ever enjoy the sound of thunder again.

When I was 16 a wise Bishop told me that anger is a choice.  Of course as a teenager full of angst I was infuriated by the accusation that my anger was a choice.  But in that ironic moment I decided to test the theory and immediately began to notice that I could in fact choose how I reacted to perturbing stimuli.  It’s been many years now and I’m much better at choosing not to become angry, though having three little kids has provided a plethora of new ways to practice that choice.  But what is the extent of our power to choose?

I feel crushed at times by the burdens of responsible adulthood.  Can the answer be to choose not to be burdened by earthly cares?  This is certainly part of what the Savior intended when he said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  This implies that one’s life is acceptable to God.

We have reason to worry if we try to succeed on our own strength and terms.  But if we are confident that the path we are pursuing is in accordance with the will of God, even directed by Him, then we are promised His strength.  We can with full confidence stop worrying, and “stand still with the utmost assurance and see the salvation of our God” (D&C 123:17).  The challenge then is knowing that you are where and doing what the Lord would have you be and do.  When you know that in the depths of your soul, then worry melts like frost before the sun.  This is true power, not passive positive thinking that everything will work out for the best.

I felt such an assurance last night as raindrops began to pelt the awning outside my window.  I read these words:

Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord; for what is property unto me? saith the Lord….For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth? Therefore will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 117:4,6-7

What is property to the creator of worlds without end?  I will choose to let storms once again bring majesty instead of dread to an otherwise meteorologically average existence, and trust that the Lord can bring forth in abundance the things we need for the journey.

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