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.

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