Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Eternal Judgment

    In all the eternities, there are only a handful of moments that especially stand out that redefine who we are. In order to understand our eternal destiny, we must understand the crux of time, where our true nature comes to light, i.e. the Final Judgment.

    The word judgment in Hebrew is mishpat, which is to render a verdict. As I mentioned briefly in a previous article, we don't stand to be judged because we're awesome, we must stand to be judged because of our transgressions. Intentional or not, if we have trespassed a law we must answer for it. “For behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God” in order to be judged, where we are all the guilty party.

    So how does The Lord judge us? As stated He “is no respecter of persons”. If it were not so, it would be impossible to have faith in such a fickle god. Thus “with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.” So obviously his standard is universal, applying to all of his children, regardless of circumstance, both to the rich and to the poor, to the educated and to the ignorant, to the bond and to the free, to male and to female, all will be judged the same way without exception.

    So what is that standard you ask? Why the Laws of the Kingdoms of course. It is impossible to judge someone without a law to judge them against. As stated in the D&C “And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same ...
    And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

    We see here that preservation, perfection, and sanctification, all cometh of the law. Without these laws in place, the Kingdoms of Glory could not be maintained, and it is for this reason that He judges, not to condemn or to create artificial social positions, but rather to protect, save, and uplift us as much as possible.

    I have covered the laws themselves in further detail here, here and here, but to quickly recap let me just say that
the laws separating the Kingdoms of Glory simply divide us by who we are, or rather by our natures: viz. the filthy man, the natural man, the just man, and the holy man.

    This brings us to ask, by what means does God judge us, to determine our natures. The fact is he already knows at heart who and what we are, but just because he knows that we are sinners in our heart, doesn't mean that he dispenses justice upon us until we provoke it. Otherwise it would be no different than murdering Hitler as a baby. Without proof of his wickedness, his murder would be unjustified.

    So how do we prove our inner natures, not only to The Lord, but to ourselves? The Lord has expressed himself on many occasions saying “They shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.” So does this mean that we simply need to look at the accomplishments and results that one has in life to judge a man?

    Imagine if you will, a man who in the sincerity of his heart desires to save children from a burning orphanage. Unfortunately this man happens to be the clumsiest person alive, and as a result, instead of saving the children, he breaks handle to the exit, and causes the children to be burned alive.

    Next imagine if you will his lustful, perverted brother who happens to be a virgin. He remains so simply because he lacks the ability to seduce women, living in agony at his inability to get a single one. He continually labors to sate his carnal desire, but unfortunately dies without being able to do so.

    Now if you look at the results, there is one man who causes the death of every child in an orphanage, while on the other hand there is a man who lives his life while remaining entirely chaste. If described that way, we would be inclined to judge the first harshly, while letting the second off scot free.

    I would ask of you, would God so judge and condemn the first man simply because of a twist of fate? Would He consign him to burning hells, just because of his incompetence? Of course not. On the other hand, would he judge the second man innocent and pure, being rewarded with a glorious rest, despite his obvious wickedness? The very idea is ridiculous. As mentioned before, God judges everyone regardless of any of their circumstances.

    Very few people will argue that in the above situation, judging by one's results is a foolish thing, and yet we as professed Christians do the exact same thing and assume that He does likewise. We as foolish mortals, only see the outward results of an inward choice. And while we may not admit it on the outside, inwardly as we prosper in our pride we like to believe that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength” as Korihor the Anti-Christ said.

    Unfortunately, as a consequence of this far ranging belief, there is far too much of an emphasis on results. We judge men according to the outcome of their actions and demand that they jump through hoops, saying that they cannot be saved unless they show direct results. If we were take and apply that frame of mind to His judgment, it would be full of loop holes and pot holes. And in any event, as we are all “unprofitable servants” His judgment would be harsh indeed.

    So what does this mean, that he judges us according to our works? Both the Greek and Hebrew terms that have been translated to “works” is related to employment. In Hebrew works is “melakah” which is also labor, service, and deputyship and is is explicit in that the work is never forced, i.e. it is by choice and not slavery.

    The Greek term is “ergon” and is also not only employment, but is related to the toil and effort. Just like in english, where when we say “we go to work”, we go to our place of employment, so it is that that is the meaning of works, in how we are Judged. When He judges us, it is not by the results of what we have accomplished which is very circumstantial and not equitable, but rather on who we follow, serve, and desire to work for. In other words, the most important question is who's your master.

    Do we work to set up ourselves as a god, in like manner as Satan, refusing to acknowledge our faults? Do we serve our natural man and the lusts of the flesh, seeking the glory of the world and for riches and all manner of lasciviousness? Do we think to serve society and its needs, working to help our fellow man, and being concerned with what they think? Or finally do we serve the greatest and only real good, who is The Lord.

    Whatever master we have chosen to serve is what sets us apart. Remember that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    As I will expound in greater detail later, it is our very purpose of this life to find what it is we are willing to serve, to prove to ourselves what it is that we wish. If that is the case, then does it not make sense to judge by this very same standard? If we are here to find our heart's desire, then shouldn't be we judged by that thing which we ultimately choose to serve?

    Ultimately our judgment rests upon our own choices, or the desires of our hearts as the following scripture more directly mentions “And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

    And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

    The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

    If we replace “works” with “enterprises” we can plainly discern from the scripture above, that we will “inherit” our master's heritage, the heritage that we have desired. If we serve The Lord, we will inherit from Him, and if we serve the devil then that is who we will inherit from, for all “receive their wages of whom they list to obey.

    We should also note that the last verse doesn't even mention works anymore, only our desires. In other words there must be a likeness between desires and works for this scripture to make sense. Our choices and the resulting works and endeavors are born from our will and desires.

    Even more directly, Alma states “I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.

    But of course, how can a man choose what he will, if he has no knowledge of whom he is serving? This is why it is said by Samuel the Lamanite: “And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.

    And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

    When at last we shall stand before him, we shall all have the knowledge necessary to make our own choices. “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” When we stand at his Judgment bar there will be no excuses, none to say “I didn't know”. We will all know that we have chosen our fate according to our desires.

    Finally, to gain a greater appreciation for the greatness and perfection of his judgment, let us look at a specific example of what happens when he does judge us, namely those that inherit a Telestial Kingdom. We know that they reject Christ's atonement and suffer for their own sins. This they do knowing full well the eternal implications, having a full knowledge of the glory of the Terrestrial that they are going to miss out on, as well as the horror of spiritual death that awaits them should they refuse to repent.

    There is no mistake in their choice, it is not some sort of slip up. They choose their pride rather than life through Christ, even at God's Eternal judgment bar, for that is what they desire from core of their being. Those of a Telestial nature have proven by choice that death is preferable to bowing to Christ, and by so doing they reject the higher law of the Terrestrial kingdom.

    Now I ask, would any complain after being judged by Him, seeing as they seal their own fate? Would any raise up their heads and cry unto god that the judgment is unfair or they have changed their minds?

    If avoiding spiritual death is not a sufficient motive for these people, then what in the entire Telestial kingdom, a kingdom without pain, suffering, sickness, or death, would have the power to motivate them to throw away their pride? Why would they accept Him afterward, when they reject Him when they need him the most? They don't seek for a higher kingdom, not because they are forced into a jail called the Telestial kingdom, but rather because they don't want it. That is their choice.

    Did not C.S. Lewis say that the door of hell is locked from the inside? The same thing can be said of any destination we arrive at. The doors are locked because we have chosen our fate.

    This is not to say that if Satan had his way he'd stay in outer darkness. Looking at his actions now, we can see that given the chance he'll go on corrupting the souls of men forever. However God cannot allow that to continue, and thus will have him cast out. Satan will stay in outer darkness, beyond the veil of eternity, for he forever refuses to clear the conditions necessary to escape. Eternal torture is preferable to him.

    Clearly God has the utmost respect for our desires and our agency, even for the Devil and his angels to a certain degree. He does not coerce us, as is evident when even one of his most gifted children, Lucifer, rebelled against him. God gave him the agency to choose for himself what he wanted. He didn't interfere but rather allowed us, His children to work it out. If God had intervened there would not have been a war in heaven; it would simply be Satan immediately being cast out.

    Would a god who were to coerce his children truly be a charitable, loving god, a god who respects our agency? No he would not. Only a selfish and self-centered person would constrict the choices available to their children, so that they couldn't leave their own house. A truly loving parent will allow their children to leave their home, and choose their own path.

    Even when we are separated from God, He isn't wracked with anxiety, for He knows us better than we know ourselves. As such He has prepared a mansion for all of us to dwell in, even if we don't choose the same path as Him. He desires our return but never forces it, and in the event we choose not to, He already knows where we are and what we are doing, for we his children will dwell in an everlasting kingdom of glory. There is no need for worry or doubt, for He knows His children have what they want.

    As stated in D&C 88 “And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

    For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

    From this we see that God grants to all “that which they are willing to receive”. He specifically typifies the Kingdoms of God as gifts, not punishments. The Kingdoms of God are physical extensions of how much of His will we are able to accept. The Sons of Perdition suffer for eternity because they are not willing, nor are grateful to receive the gift of life. The Telestial and Terrestrial do not increase for similar reasons.

    Is God so incompetent that he makes mistakes in what he grants his children? Is he not able to save any child so lost by simple ignorance or mistake? Of course not. “we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.

    He has the power to save. His laws and judgments are not superficial. People don't change their minds after he judges them, and grants unto them as much light as they can accept. He finds out exactly what they want before he grants it unto them. His law and judgment pierces us to the core of our souls. There is no doubt as to what we want after all we experience.

    God's plan is perfect. He does not make mistakes, whether in justice or judgment. God's plan allows each person's potential to flower and bloom, bearing glorious fruit. He lifts us up, and grants us the power to fulfill the conditions that need to be passed to enter into His glory. He enables us to overcome every test that we have the desire to. Therefore if we “fail” to pass a test it is because we don't wish to, not because we haven't studied enough.

    Therefore the temptations of Satan ultimately mean nothing, as every corrupt doctrine, every deception, every lie will be unmasked and the truth will prevail over all. Christ has already overcome all, and as such his grace is already present to alleviate the symptoms of Satan's betrayal. Any loss we may experience in the eternities is simply because we do not truly desire after what is lost.

    Every child of God ends up where they will, of their own free will and choice. As the above scripture clearly indicates, the kingdoms of glory are not a punishment, but rather they are a glorious gift and a respite for all of God's children, and until one understands that, they know nothing of God or his plan of Salvation.

    In the long run, He truly respects us as who we are, and isn't willing to compromise those principles of Eternal love to force us to change if we do not wish it. That is why his Judgment is so perfect. He gives us all of the tools to make our own choices and even frees us from the bondage of sin. We are free and are permitted to choose our own fate. None can complain for “The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.

    From our first coming into His presence as His spirit sons and daughters, to our final destiny in His kingdoms of glory, nothing stands out like the Final Judgment. It is the pivotal moment where Eternity hangs in the balance.

    It is a moment of glory for all of His children for “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

    I testify that His judgment bar is only as painful as we make it, and that we can truly place all our trust in Him and His judgments. By knowing these things, we can gain the confidence and faith required to fulfill our purposes that we must accomplish in this life, to the salvation of our brethren. And if we labor and toil with our might for The Lord, then we will at last see him in His kingdom regardless of our circumstance. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Eternity

To know Him is to know the eternities.
    Joseph Smith taught “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God.” and likewise: “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves” Clearly knowing Him and His characteristics is vital to us.

    In D&C 19 we read: “For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore — Eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is God's punishment.

    His Name and thus his character is Endless and Eternal. To understand Him we must understand these principles. Why is his name Eternal? Why did God choose to express His character with this word?

    First we can understand that since his name is Eternal, one can replace the word Eternal with “Divine” or “God-like” to gain a greater understanding of his plan. For example Eternal marriage is not only marriage that lasts forever, but also a divine marriage that is gloriously similar to His. Eternal life is not only to live forever, but to live a life similar to His.

    This however does not teach us anything relating to Eternity itself, so to understand further let us look at Joseph Smith's words where he has said time and again “if it had a beginning, it will have an end.” This deep sentence, so full of meaning, is also easily misunderstood. If we were to try and take a literal bent and apply it to everything, it is truly a destructive sentence.

    Take for example, our uniting of our spirits and our bodies. Obviously this has a beginning, so does this mean that there will be a point in time when our spirits will shed themselves of the flesh? Of course not, for in the D&C 93 we record “The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

    Likewise there is a beginning to our union with our spouses. Does this mean that at some point in the future that our union will irrevocably be dissolved? That too is a ridiculous notion, for we know that marriage is eternal. Again this time in 1 Corinthians 11 we read “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

    If we take this interpretation to its logical conclusion, then nothing real is eternal. For in that case revelation, marriage, posterity, priesthood, salvation, and even life, both spiritual and physical would all invariably perish, for they all have specific instances which have beginnings and thus as a consequence would end eventually. Every covenant would be rendered meaningless, and every eternal promise a lie. If that really was the case, why has God not warned us of the impending dissolution of those fundamental things?

    Obviously this way of thinking is flawed and broken, so when is it appropriate to apply this doctrine, and how can we do so properly? Well, first and foremost we must understand that our gentile ways of interpreting revelation based upon Greek philosophies is most inappropriate. Applying that which is meant to pertain to eternal principles, to specific cases or occurrences instead is a very gentile and very wrong way to approach this.

Man is created after the image of God, and thus Eternity
is contained therein.
    If we read Joesph Smith journal which he wrote when summarizing what he taught at King Follett's funeral, he clearly states that “If man had a beginning he must have an end”. Similarly other versions of the statement are invariably tied to man's eternal nature. Now I have already written in depth about how this doctrine of man's eternal nature is truly divinely inspired revelation. This does not mean that it must be solely restricted to such an interpretation, however this gives us a starting point for which to understand how it should be applied.

    Josephs Smith explained this principle more expressly saying “Anything created cannot be eternal;” Are specific instances of divine precepts ever “created”? In other words, when one marries, do you create marriage? No. When one enters a kingdom of glory are the kingdoms created? No! His divine plan and His covenants have existed from before time began. So it is that we must apply this doctrine on whether the idea itself has a beginning.

    Joseph Smith said “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us ... are revealed to us in the abstract”. So if we apply it as it is meant to be, upon spiritual and abstract principles, it reveals a surprising insight into the divine. Let us go back to a simple example: namely marriage, which as an institution is eternal without beginning or end. It was not thought up or created by man, and as a consequence it has no end. Thus any cases where a couple are sealed together by Him, are Eternal.

    So it is with anything. If the idea or law that it is based upon is eternal, without beginning or end, then the specific instance of that principle in action likewise becomes an eternal thing. Whether it be physical life, receiving the priesthood, or any other doctrine, ordinance, or covenant, as these things are all based upon eternal laws without beginning or end, so too does each individual implementation of them in reality become eternal.

    On the other hand, any idea, philosophy of man, law, or plan which is created or man made, will invariably perish, and any specific execution of those ideas will perish with the imperfect principle. This was Lucifer's greatest mistake, as his plan was not eternal, but rather a “mortal” construct, and was thus doomed to fail.

    Unlike the words and works of this world, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled” His words and laws are without beginning of days or end of years. They are not designed or created, but are everlasting principles of light and truth.

    Likewise God himself has no beginning or end. He is self existent, and as such He is an Eternal principle in and of Himself. As stated Eternal is His name, and as such everything God does, says, and touches is Eternal in one form or another.

    So how are his Punishments Eternal, when they do not last forever as stated in D&C 19:6-7? Well in the case of the Sons of Perdition, they do last forever, as Joseph Smith clearly taught that they are “doomed to Gnolaum—to dwell in hell, worlds without end.” Gnolaum being the Hebrew for eternal meaning everlasting or forever, for “the Lord never authorized [anyone], to say, that the devil, nor his angels, nor the sons of perdition should ever be restored

That which is concealed beyond the horizon may seem an
Eternity away, but it is but a small moment in the Eternities.
    But then of course we come to the wicked that are saved at the last day. Was God simply bluffing? Is it an intricate lie to get people to not act out? Of course not for He is a god of truth and cannot lie. He doesn't exaggerate just for effect, nor does He say that which is not true from an Eternal perspective. To cheapen his words by making it into some sort of “scare tactic” is to profane God.

    Firstly if we look at the Bible and at the words chosen by Him to denote Eternal, Everlasting, and Forever we gain a new understanding of what He meant. In almost all of the cases where those words are used in the Old Testament, it comes from the Hebrew ‘olam. This word is figuratively used to denote Eternity, but a literal translation would interpret it as “concealment due to far distance”, as relating to the horizon. In other words, these things are not literally forever, but rather they last “until further notice” from God, for we cannot see their end.

    This was the case in the Law of Moses, as well as the Law of Circumcision, which were both fulfilled in Christ. His words were not done away, but were superseded with a higher law. Likewise any of His punishments, which do not last forever are replaced when the time comes.

    In the New Testament, the word used in almost all cases is aionios, which again is used figuratively to denote eternity. Literal it simply means lasting “an age or epoch”. How appropriate! We know that those that suffer His wrath, do so during the Millennium, which is the age to end all ages. God in is wisdom chose the most pertinent word to describe what we need to understand.

    Secondly if a prophet is warning others of the dangers of filthiness, will they not talk about those that are in the thrall of it? Whenever the prophets warn the people of sin and the consequences of filthiness, they must by necessity speak of the ultimate consequence of filthiness, which is what the Sons of Perdition must endure, aka never-ending spiritual death and hell. This strategy to use simple truths to illustrate a simple consequence allows even the most spiritually desensitized to understand.

    Finally those that go to a Telestial Kingdom are not only cast out to hell, but also experience eternal consequences of their choice. They brand themselves as those who have chosen sin and as such they are the unjust. They cannot be perfected for they have rejected Gods gift of salvation when faced with the greatest need for it. For “where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

    We can clearly see that God and all his words and works have infinite consequences. As He Himself said in Moses “For my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease” His unchanging everlasting nature is what makes him Eternal. As Alma expounds “He cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.

    His Eternal nature means that He is the only thing that we can rely upon. As Joseph Smiths words concerning that which begins having an end is understood, we see that all else must pass away and perish except for that which relies upon Him, for he endows us with those Eternal powers and principles necessary for us to return to Him.

    I know that everything that He touches is affect by his Eternal nature and so, we too can become Eternal by embracing Him, and become Joint Heirs with Christ. He has his hand stretched out to us, to pull us up to Him, if we but look to him. Of this I testify, Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Growth

The source of growth is the life and light that comes from God.
    As I have explained before, pain is not gain; growth comes from God. We must then ask ourselves, what are the ways we access His power in order to grow. If we take a closer look at the scriptures, and apply how the differing degrees of heaven work, we can realize that there are five distinct degrees or stages of growth.

    The lowest degree does not grow at all, but rather it is a state like unto death, one of stagnation and decay. It is the lack of increase due to pride, as it prevents any change. Pride fights against the truth of our weakness, and as it does not acknowledge its imperfection, growth becomes impossible.

    Anyone can fall to this state at any time. Those that are lost and that are thrust to outer darkness fall into this category. Since they do not grow, they actively interfere with others development and sabotage others efforts.

    In their pride, they raise themselves up as is they were god, and to compensate for their flaws they do their utmost to thrust down all others that threaten their superiority. Thus they hinder and even destroy any growth that mankind has achieved, often leading the the destruction of cities, nations, and even entire civilizations.

    As the first level does not constitute a level of growth, the lowest degree of real improvement is learning through experience. It is the natural tendency of mankind to fall into this rut, and a great number persist in this degree, and never grow out of it. It is a lesser degree of pride, but pride nonetheless.

    This can be likened to those that are of the telestial kingdom, for these are they that are thrust down to hell, and must suffer for their own sins. Only by going through death, do they learn to appreciate life. Thus these are they that only learn through pain and suffering. These are the damned and the unjust.

    If one will stay at this level, they will never advance to a higher degree. Since they can only learn from their own mistakes, and from their own suffering, they can never become masters of their craft, whatever that may be.

    As imperfection can only breed further imperfection, their progress is slow and incomplete. Any development is fraught with errors, as they only compensate for errors that they can see for themselves. Thus they never contribute to the overall good of society or the advancement of mankind. These are dead-weights that slow down societal progress, and indirectly contribute to its regression.

    The Second degree of growth can not only
be attained but also surpassed by all. This level constitutes having the humility to learn from others. Those that begin learning a new skill will quickly discover that there is only so much they can learn or do for themselves. The guidance provided by mentors and those that went before is eagerly incorporated, and embraced gratefully.

    Through this level, one can master themselves, and thus unleash part of their potential. This can be likened to those of a terrestrial nature, who rely upon the merits of Christ to suffer for their sins. They willingly follow instruction, and increase surely but gradually. They are able to learn from the experiences of others, thus allowing them to not have to make those same mistakes themselves.

Studying the ideas and philosophies of
imperfect mortals only gets us so far.
    They avoid the mistakes and incorporate the success of those that teach them. This is not to say that they do not learn from their own mistakes. Rather they build upon it. Thus the second degree of progress builds upon the first. They provide for the small and simple growth that is achieved by humanity.

    However a closer look reveals that it is ultimately not an ideal method of growth, for those that grow after this manner are taught after the precepts of men, and as such, they are bound by the errors and imperfections of men. Just like those of a Terrestrial nature, “these are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men”, and this because they continue to trust in the arm of flesh. This degree of growth, merely acts to slow the degeneration found in all of nature; for how can society move forward, unless the next generation surpasses the previous one?

    The rarely seen third degree of sure growth is important enough, to warrant special attention. These are they who seek and strive to learn directly from a higher source. As mentioned previously, all learning and improvement comes from God. It is only a matter of how or when one is willing to accept that inspiration from on high that is the key.

    Those that are in the first degree of learning only accept truth when it is shoved down their throats, while those in the second accept it as it comes. Those in the highest degree of learning actively seek it out, knowing that even their mentors are not perfect, nor are they the source of truth. Indeed, they look to the perfect source of knowledge, which is the still small voice that is within.

    They too learn from their own mistakes, as well as the mentoring of others, but most importantly they learn from God himself. It is in this way that geniuses are born. Those that faithfully follow their inner conscience can learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. In fact they can learn without making any mistakes! That is the key.

    Miyamoto Musashi did not become a master swordsman by losing to his enemies. In fact that would be impossible, for losing equals death. No, he learned from his successes. Mozart did not become one of the greatest the composers of all time by writing poor compositions, nor did he by solely relying on others. Rather he looked for the divine music which flowed from within.

    While not everyone may be a genius, ALL can and ought to look to God for further light and knowledge, and doing so is the key to the most powerful and complete growth possible. The growth of society is triggered by key men that have reached this degree of progress. Newton, Gauss, Mozart, and others have laid new foundations for the progress of man even though they are just men.

    Greater still are the prophets, who have all reached this stage of development, for they are not prophets unless they look to God as the source of their strength. In fact Christ himself was born and stayed in this path of growth, for even he did grow from grace to grace, without error and without mistake.

    These are all those that have shaped and truly brought light and growth to the world. This is not small and steady growth, but explosive change that results in healing the world, changing it from Babylon into Zion.

Having a Eureka moment is like having a light switched on in
your brain, or like liquid truth being poured into your mind.
    If we take a closer look at the processes behind this level of growth, we discover that the key to genius is experiencing the aha! moment, that special instant when all confusion and misunderstanding evaporate, immediately being replaced with a comprehensive understanding. There is no learning curve, or internal struggle to understand. The knowledge simply comes, complete, whole, and perfect.

    To gain further insight at how Eureka moments work, one scientific study hooked up volunteers to various brain scanning equipment. Interestingly this study showed a marked decrease in brain activity in the visual processing centers of the brain, just prior to experiencing an “aha! Moment”. The study also showed that the difference between those that solved problems via inspiration versus brute force, was that those that were solving the problem via brute force analysis relied more on what they saw, and as such looked outside for answers. Those that were inspired looked within.

    Another similar study showed that thinking too hard was detrimental to receiving insight, as it was linked to having a mental block. More importantly it also showed that the brain went into an idle mode just prior to receiving the answer via inspiration. In other words, the brain had to turn off and stop processing for it to receive light from on high.

    Related to the above studies, is the concept of flow. In Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence, it states that flow is a condition when one performs at their peak ability, focused in a state of pure concentration, masterfully carrying out their objectives, unconstrained by worry or care. It is a state of being one with the activity itself, and thus they effortlessly pull out their maximum potential. Contrary to what one would expect, it is intriguing that when one is at their best is when their brain activity is at its lowest.

    All of these facts point to one important conclusion: true mastery and genius are not born of genetic nor the environmental; for is it not a thing of the body. This is not to say that genetics nor the environment are inconsequential. Rather it means that this apex of the human condition is not earned by man, but granted of God.

    In The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith we read “The first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham.

    In addition he taught “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all.

The brain is merely a spirit-body information transfer device.
Therefore any defects in it interfere with receiving inspiration.
    It is quite clear from this, that it is our bodies and the imperfections therein that interfere with the Holy Ghost, and His divine workings upon our minds and hearts, and while how much our bodies interfere may depend upon the individual, ultimately our brains are no more a source of growth than is a wart on your toe. When the Holy Ghost has finally cleansed our bodies to the point that it no longer interferes with our receiving further light and knowledge, is when he is able to grant to us his Light directly to our spirits.

    It is not our effort or our determination that suddenly begets intelligence, it is His divine gift to us for our diligently seeking, wherein we prove that it is our will to grow, and as a consequence he can grant upon us what we will without Him impinging upon our agency. We must not forget Moroni's counsel to remember that “all things which are good cometh of God”.

    Finally, moving past the previous degree of growth, we arrive at the last stage. Again it is not one of personal growth. Once one reaches perfection, there is nothing to be done for one's self. In the Hebrew and Greek Testemants, the words for perfect, also mean complete, or whole.

    Just as Jesus has commanded us to be, so is He perfect, complete, and whole, and as such He has no more need of growth. In fact, if He were a being that personally grows, He would be a changeable being, and as such would not be God. But this runs directly contrary to the scriptures, which read that he is an unchangeable being.

    His unchangeableness is what makes Him dependable. We read in the Lectures on Faith “But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that he is gracious and long suffering. For without the idea of unchangeableness in the character if the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that he changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in his character with unshaken confidence, believing he is the same yesterday, to-day and forever, and that his course is one eternal round.

    His perfection, and completeness is what secures his unchangeableness, which
is what allows us to trust in and depend upon Him. Similarly, if He had any possibility to grow in any way shape or form, then there would be things greater, stronger, smarter, more intelligent, and more powerful than Him. If this were so we could not depend upon Him, and we would be justified in spurning Him, as there would exist circumstances beyond His control.

    However this is not so, for He is God, who by definition is absolute. He is whole and as a result all He touches becomes so. He completes us through our knowing Him and becoming one with Him. Obviously only God has reached this level, and it is only He that can bring about true growth, which is yet another reason why we must trust in Him.

    In Moses 1:39 we read “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” As stated, God, instead of focusing upon self, focuses all his energy for the growth of those around him. He is the source of strength and guidance for all that rely upon Him. In this it is the very diametric opposite of the lowest stage. The light and life that shines forth at this stage, not only heals individuals, but the entire earth itself. Without God at this stage, no growth is possible, for this is the stage of divinity itself, the source of light and life.

He has already provided the way.
We just need to climb.
    The truth is that error does not lead to growth or success. God leads to it. Errors and mistakes can be an instrument to prod those to look to god, but it is He that fixes those errors. The more we rely upon him, the closer to perfection we become, while the more we rely upon ourselves and others, the less light and knowledge reaches our puny minds.

    Thus we can plainly see that there is no excuse for sin and error. Though they are an integral part of our reality, they are neither unavoidable, desirable, nor necessary. There is no excuse for sin and error, for were it not so there would be no true justice nor perfection.

    This does not mean that we should be discouraged due to our past sins or errors. Rather it means that we must continually seek to shed ourselves of those imperfections through the Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know that if we continue to ask Him for his healing power in our lives, that He will complete us.

    Remember final few the words that Moroni wrote saying: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

    And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

    Brethren and Sisters, I can testify of His redeeming power, and it is only through Christ's atonement, and the Holy Ghost that he sends to us, that we can access the God's Divine light and truly shine in this world. Of this I testify, Amen.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Free Will

    Agency is a core teaching found in the scriptures. From the Garden of Eden to the Final Judgment, the plan of salvation hinges on our agency. It is so important that we waged a war, staking our spiritual lives to fight for it, not even knowing whether we would come out safe in the end of our mortal lives. That is how important it is.

    But how does agency work? How is it that we become “agents unto ourselves”? Obviously our being moral agents, is dependent upon having some sort of free will, wherein we can choose for ourselves that which we want.

    Therefore, to understand free will better we have to look at how the world views it, and what problems there are with the existence of agency. In general, there are four schools of thought concerning free will and the workings of the universe.

    Firstly incompatibilists state that because the universe is deterministic, there is no free will. Libritarianists on the other hand state that because free will exists, the universe is not deterministic. Both argue that a deterministic universe is incompatible with the existence of free will. The third school of thought, Hard Indeterminism refutes libritarianism, stating that free will does not exist even in a non-deterministic universe. Finally, Compatibilists state that free will and determinism can co-exist.

    We will cover these four different view points each in turn, but first let us take a look at free will and what it requires to exist. First let us imagine floating in space, with no body, nowhere to go, and nothing to do. Without a circumstance to exercise our will, it becomes meaningless. We can only make a choice if there is something to choose. Therefore our ability to exercise our will is by necessity dictated by our circumstances.

    Secondly we need to be given at least two possibilities from which to choose. Being given a single option does not allow us to exercise agency, for we have no choice but the single option presented before us. We need to be given multiple possibilities, and while they don't need to be equally probable, they must be possible. See 2nd Nephi Chapter 2.

    Thirdly we need consequences of those choices. The only value there is to choice is if there are different consequences to them. If every decision led to the exact same outcome, then any actions taken were all in vain. Any decision made would be fake, every choice a lie. There is no meaning to agency, no value to our desires.

    For example, if all were guaranteed to eventually return to God regardless of the choices made in life, then the fact that I sacrificed so much and finally made it to the Celestial Kingdom becomes worthless as everyone gets there anyways, even the filthy whore-mongers that rape and pillage and seek for the glory of the world.

    Consequences makes the choices we make from a mere mental exercise into something real. Without that difference, free will is an illusion, where we are not captains of our own destiny, but rather pawns of fate.

Choices without different consequences are meaningless,
    While these are the requirements for agency, this still doesn't clear up the problem of free will mentioned above. For us to better understand problem of free will, let us take a look at a simple example: Imagine a ball resting on a hill. Whether the ball rolls left or right, can it be said that the ball chose to roll either way? No, it acted not of its own volition, but rather as a consequence of physical forces acting upon it. This is crux of the the determinism and free will conundrum.

    Incompatibilism states that we are no different than the ball, with any “choice” we make simply a natural consequence of the physical forces acting within the context of our bodies and minds. Just as the ball rolled in one direction, so too do we act not out of a choice, but because of the natural forces acting upon us.

    Now let us add bouncy muscles to the ball, and a computer chip to control its direction. Even in this case, the ball isn't making a choice when it picks a side to roll down. It is the programmer who programmed the ball to roll in that direction that ultimately made the choice.

    In this sense, if we are created by god, then God is responsible for our actions. He predetermined our choices through his programming. This is the second layer of the free will problem.

    Libritarianists try to get around this by stating that the universe is not deterministic, thus allowing for choice. The indeterminate nature of the universe means that it could go either way. However, this is no solution, as instead of solving the problem it compounds it.

    Again, in an indeterminate universe, let us take the programmable bouncy ball, and add a choice making device, which makes its choices dependent upon a special indeterminate particle in this universe (something akin to the quantum mechanical effects that happen in our universe). Sometimes the particle will point left, and others right. In this case can the ball be said to be making a choice?

    Of course it doesn't make a choice. The so called choice is dependent upon chance, and not upon the “desires” of the ball in question. In that event, our choices are ultimately due to both the programmer and to chance. This isn't any closer to a ball making the choice than in the deterministic case. In fact, the problem has been further compounded by probability.

     So it is in any case where the human soul has been created by God. Whether determinate or indeterminate, any soul so created is ultimately no different than a puppet of the creator or a puppet of chance. It is simply a matter of the complexity of the program, and has nothing to do with resolving the issue of free will.

    Then how do we resolve this? Simple. As Joseph Smith wrote “[The] mind of man [is] coequal with God himself.” This simple sentence is able to resolve what philosophers throughout the past thousands of years haven't been able to understand, let alone figure out.

    While it is true that God is our Creator and our Father, in the sense that he clothed our eternal wills with spirit bodies, organizing our spirit bodies, and breathing into it our will, and has even raised, nurtured, and loved us from the beginning, that does not mean he created the core of ourselves, namely our will. That part is eternal, as Joseph Smith stated many times in many diverse ways.

Without aseity the question becomes:
are we puppets to chance or fate.
    This means that at its core, our will is absolutely independent of circumstance, a will that is, to some degree on par with God's himself. What we will or desire is not dictated by anything other than ourselves. Our will is self-caused, not inflicted upon us by circumstance, luck, fate, or what-have-you.

    However, just because we have a free will to choose, doesn't mean that we have total freedom to go where we wish, for we are still bound to our circumstances as well as the consequences of our choices and the choices of others. Our families, our communities, our societies, and even our bodies, minds, and emotions all have their own programming that affects us and channels us down different paths.

    However it does mean that at our core we are free and independent and that our desires are not caused, but rather we are the cause of our own desires. So it is that while we may be slaves of our circumstances, we can fight and rebel against the yoke of bondage, for it is He that sets us free.

    We have the freedom to fight against the will of our bodies, to try to cast off the shackles of addiction and to fight against the carnal lusts of the flesh. We have the freedom to fight against the will of our emotions, to try to heal the deep scars on our souls that we have hidden inside and to face and overcome the anxieties and fears that beset us. We have the freedom to fight against the will of our minds, to reject the doubts and falsehoods that so easily beset us and to take the leap of faith necessary to open ourselves to new and glorious truths.

    We have the freedom to fight against the will of our families, to deny the incorrect traditions of our fathers and to try and stop the cycle of abuse from the past. We have the freedom to fight the will of our society, to carve our own way forward and fight against unrighteous dominion wherever it lies. We have the freedom to fight the will of the world, to destroy the whore of Babylon and bring forth Zion. 

    The freedom to try doesn't guarantee success, but the fact that the option exists is proof of a will that supersedes any programming that has been imposed upon us from external sources.

     What a revelation this is! Up until now it was not known that man was self-existent. It was believed that man was caused, or created, and as such, God the creator of man would be responsible for man's choices. This was the central problem between free will and determinism.

    Without free will, how can man be accountable for his actions? Without a determinate universe, how could God be all knowing and all powerful? However with this new and glorious revelation, it becomes clear that man is responsible for his own actions, and that God is an all knowing and all powerful dependable being.

    Not only is our folly our own, but so is our righteousness. When we choose to follow god, it is our own choice, and not a preprogrammed directive. That is the weight of the worth of agency.

    Without agency, our choices are just as valueless as the ball's, we being mindless slaves, no different than the elements from which we are made, live meaningless lives without purpose or worth. With agency, every action we take part in is a reflection of what we want, and has the meaning and weight of our soul behind it.

    God's purpose is to elevate us, from our mundane meaningless existence, to a meaningful one. This is exactly why he so strongly respects our agency, even when it results in harm to ourselves and others. This is also why we fought so hard to protect our agency. We wanted to prove to ourselves what we willed, not to have the wills of others pushed upon us

Whether we seek out the light, or hunger after the dark it is
our choice, and it is that resolution that defines who we are.
    This is why, to fully exercise our will or agency, we need to ask, seek, and knock. The Greek for ask, seek, and knock found in the new testament is in the present imperative tense. This means that we need to be to “be continually seeking, asking and knocking”. By doing so we fully exercise our agency, and prove what it is that is our true desire.

    This supreme gift of agency, where the divine spark within our will has been clothed in flesh, and given a circumstance wherein we are able to choose whatever we wish without interference from eternal laws, is the greatest endowment which god has granted upon us. Our maturing to the point where we can finally yield our will unto him, is the only way that we can finally become like him. This why our agency is so vital. Without it we cannot choose good, and as a consequence we cannot be good.

    I testify, that this revelation that Joseph Smith received, is the only way to truly reconcile an understanding of God, Man, Agency, and the universe. He was a prophet of God, and this revelation is vital to our understanding ourselves, and to our eternal salvation and progression.