Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Sacrifice

    When I wrote before about Eternal Laws and the necessity of sacrifice relating to them, I neglected to fully explain the reasoning behind this. The fact is the sacrifices that He requires of us, not only in this life, but in the world to come can be very difficult at times to accept. So in order to more easily sacrifice those things that are dear to us, we need to know why it is necessary.

    The word sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” To supplement this definition I like to think of sacrifice as giving up something to which we have a person connection, which makes it difficult to give up.

    Giving up money to receive goods is not a sacrifice. In the case where we are coerced into paying money, it's not the money that is the sacrifice, but rather our freedom that has been taken. Unless we have a personal stake in that thing which we are asked to relinquish, it cannot be called a sacrifice, but it is rather a simple transaction.

    So why must we make this painful and difficult decision to cut off a part of ourselves? Why did Joseph Smith say “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”.

    As I mentioned previously, when the lord judges us, He does so according to who we serve. The fact is that we all serve something or another. It is in our nature to find a purpose behind all that we will, which purpose comes from that which commands us.

    I will touch more deeply upon the subject later, but one of the fundamental purposes of our life is to find our own eternal purpose, or rather to find that master whom we are willing to serve. This is precisely why we struggle throughout our lives with the choices that we do.

    It is who we serve that is the key to what we need to sacrifice, and it is this struggle that explains why. I have mentioned before many times what it is that we need to sacrifice, and even the why of the individual sacrifices. So now the question becomes why sacrifice is necessary as a general principle.

    Behind the purposes of our life, and who it is we choose to serve lies a fundamental truth. The fact is that due to our free will, ultimately we only really serve that which we truly desire. Again it says “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.

    Even if we serve various masters in this life, in the long run we will throw off the yoke of one master or another. We only choose to remain yoked down to that which satisfies our cravings. Only that which fulfills our inner desires will remain our masters at the last day. So it is that we are basically ruled by whatever our souls desire.

    To quote Sydney Losstarot from Vagrant Story “Those who crave the Dark cannot control the Dark.” It should go without saying that it is impossible to command or control that which rules over us. So it is that we become unable to control that which we hunger after, whatever that might be.

    The Telestial who hunger after the lusts of the flesh cannot control the flesh. Thus it is that they are not fit to receive a perfected body. They are not worthy of ruling over such, as they cannot even rule over what they are given now. Thus in mercy God grants to them a body that is free from lust and filthiness, that they can at least be preserved and live a life free from darkness.

    The Terrestrial who serve after the will of society and the philosophies of man can never govern over many, for they are forever slaves to the mind and will of their peers. Thus it is that they cannot be entrusted with the power to create worlds or lives, for they proved unable to set aside the concerns of the world, and live for Him while in this probationary state. Thus the Lord in His mercy grants that they may serve as angels, forever in the service of a perfected society, without the burden of lordship.

    Most alarming are the Perditious, who serve the darkness within, to set themselves up as a Law unto themselves, for they crave for power and dominion and hunger after glory by ruling over those around them with an iron fist. They try to sate themselves by looking for happiness in misery, parasitically sucking the life and light of those around them, living only to satisfy their pride, and as such they are not fit to rule even over themselves. Thus it is that they cannot even be preserved, for they will not.

    Finally the Celestial, they of whom it has been spoken that they have overcome all, they are they that seek after the light and love of God. They seek after the yoke spoken of by Jesus who said “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Obviously they cannot rule over their Eternal Father, but that is an entirely meaningless point as none are able to do so.

    While God does technically rule over them, He in his goodness never dominates or controls, never imposes His will, but rather allows them to be “agents unto themselves” and act by their own volition. For in D&C it is said: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    That is the way He rules, and it is through our being solely subservient to Him, that we are able to overcome all things. That is why His yoke is easy. The word yoke is always linked to bondage and subservience. By submitting to Him as our Lord, we take his yoke which is infinitely easier than any other yoke, for this is the only yoke where we are truly ourselves.

    Thus it is that if we are a slave to the desire, we can never rise above it. The desire and craving itself holds us back. When we sacrifice those things unto the Lord, he empowers us to rule over them. It is only they that are in complete control of themselves that are worthy of ruling over all.

    Obviously if we are to become the Fathers and Mothers of our own spiritual progeny, we need that perfection and holiness, that we might provide a perfect place to raise our own spirit children. However we can only attain that glory if we make the sacrifices necessary, by throwing away that which hinders our ability to rule in righteousness.

    That is why the Lord has written in Luke: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” We need to fill our souls with the bread and water of Christ, for that is the only thing that truly fulfills, for all else binds us down.

    So it is that the Lord provides this probationary time for us to choose how much we wish to sacrifice, and what we wish to accomplish. He doesn't forcefully demand that we all become as Him. He grants us the privilege of choosing for ourselves, that we need not give up what we cannot part with.

    He loves all of us as His children, and thus gives us the tools to choose and empowers us to rise up as high as we wish. This is not some meaningless test of how much pain we can endure, but rather, it is a means whereby we can climb up the ladder to the eternities to the greatest happiness possible. It is only through our rendering unto Him what is in His image that we are able to become like Him. Of this I testify amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In Defense of Eternal Increase

    When I covered eternal progression last time, I didn't cover any possible alternative interpretations of the term. I did this with the intent of having my article as straight forward and clear as possible. I didn't wish to clutter it with all sorts of defenses against the philosophies of men.

    That said, sometimes it is necessary to look at those ideas, and see what they offer. The main opposing viewpoint to eternal increase is the idea of progression between the kingdoms. This idea is supposedly more fair and merciful, appealing to god's goodness and mercy, suggesting that He would not allow his children to be damned to a lesser kingdom for eternity.

    One article supporting this viewpoint by J.J. Dewey can be found here. If we take a look at his article on eternal progress it seems to offer various proofs to a plan that allows people to cross over and grow from one kingdom to another. However if we take a closer look at the so-called proofs we find that they take a very mortal view on eternal principles.

    First Dewey makes an analogy which likens progression to three cars, each going at differing speeds. However he is unable to grasp the true and glorious nature of how the Kingdoms truly operate. As I have explained more thoroughly before it is impossible for anyone of a lower kingdom to catch up with those of a higher kingdom.

    If we continue to read, we see that Dewey misconstrues Joseph Smith's words “if it had a beginning, it will have an end”. Again, if we take a correct reading of this doctrine, we can see that the most important thing is whether the principle is eternal, not the instance.

    We know that the eternal laws which govern the Kingdoms of God are without beginning of days or end of years and thus it is that any specific instance of an individual entering into these Kingdoms is bound to them for eternity.

    What a gift this is! There is no doubt as to our status before god, for as our state is eternal there is no fear of a fall. What Dewey failed to realize is that if there is the freedom of progressing upwards, then so too by necessity is there the option of falling down. God could not be unchangeable, for if he is growing, so too is there a possibility of degeneration, and as a consequence he is an undependable and unreliable god.

    Dewey goes on to say that it would be unfair or unmerciful for a person do be doomed to a lesser kingdom because of mistakes made in mortality. This shows an unmistakable lack of knowing Him and His Final Judgment.

    As I stated before, the fact is that those that receive a kingdom of Glory are empowered by it. No one is “doomed” to any kingdom, as Dewey states. This word doomed implies that it is somehow a punishment, or that those so consigned are unsatisfied in some aspect.

    Firstly, it wouldn't be a kingdom of glory if the people there were all miserable. Does it not say that the glory of Telestial kingdom does “surpass all understanding”. Obviously the Telestial Kingdom is far more wonderful than we can imagine.

    The final and greatest flaw in Dewey's argument is his lack of understanding of agency which I have covered here. According to Dewey's teachings even the most wicked and filthy will eventually get to the Celestial kingdom.

    Did Dewey not say “Will there ever be a permanent end to man's union with God? Could he ever be eternally separated from him? No.” Also “Water vapor in the air may condense and fall on the earth, but sooner or later it will evaporate and return to its source, but all the molecules do not return at the same time, each returns in its order.

    Both of these passages make it abundantly clear that there is no choice in this scenario. The first passage states that it is impossible to get away from god, no matter how much we wish it. Even if we despise God from the bottom of our blackened hearts, there is no way to escape from Him. This makes God an arch tyrant which leaves us with no escape from His grasp!

    In the second, it puts us on equal level with water molecules which do not have the ability to choose to return to heaven. They do so because of natural laws acting upon them, and if we are no different than them, then we too have no choice in the matter of our returning to God. Our Agency and Will are in vain, mere illusions of the mind, without substance or meaning.

    Is this not the exact plan that Satan himself advocated? The illusion of choice to pacify us, which allows us to be herded mindlessly back up to Lucifer's presence, without any real decision in the matter.

    If the only difference in the kingdoms, is the speed with which you progress, then what is wrong with taking a more relaxed route? I personally don't like driving fast, I'd rather take in and see the sights, as I'm in no hurry. If the consequences of our choices are not eternal then that doctrine is no different than the doctrine of the world spoken of in 2nd Nephi.

    “Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

    Take in the Sights! Experience all there is to life! Even if you screw up, and murder and rape your neighbors, you'll eventually make it back, its guaranteed! Sure you'll go through hell to do so, but that's okay, ultimately it doesn't matter! Right?

    Clearly at its core, this doctrine does not lead a man to Christ. In essence, this doctrine is based upon trying to understand the Divine things of God, by the things of this world. That however is the opposite of God's way, for one can only understand the things of this world by understanding God, not vice versa. Man cannot know himself until he knows God, not the other way around. To perceive the things of God, one must build upon His Rock.

    And what is His Rock you may ask? It is His Atonement. When you truly know the atonement, you know of his grace and power, and as such you know that it can cover for all contingencies. That is why one can have the faith to believe in Him, and His plan.

    His eternal sacrifice is what allows us to not be afraid or be bound down by our mistakes for He already has them covered. There is no fear of not being able to make it, or any doubt as to His judgments, as His plan already has all of that accounted for.

    And so I ask of you to judge between these two scenarios. In the case I have laid out in further detail here, progression is a selfless journey of creation and raising up new progeny to fill the universe with glory.

    On the other hand if we take a thorough look at Dewey's interpretation of Progression there are two possibilities neither of them pleasant.
Either there is no agency, and as such it is no different than Satan's plan, OR if the path to progression is two way, allowing for both an increase and a deterioration, it results in a unstable, unreliable and undependable universe where one is never free from sin and temptation, where God himself cannot be relied upon for even He has the potential to fall.

    On top of which, in either case progression is basically about eternally being selfishly involved in trying to better yourself, with nary a mention about helping others. How can one be a perfect source of light to others, when one still has room to improve? Did not Christ say “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye”. Is it not said that “the inward vessel shall be cleansed first”?

    If you stop and think further, this even includes God himself in such a rat race, where there are things greater than He! Does this not profane Him? Does this not deny His power, perfection, holiness, and His unchanging and Eternal nature. It belittles Him, and drops Him down to our level, rather than raise us up to His.

    We read “Wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

    And so I ask, which scenario “inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ”? Which one shows a greater faith in Him, and his plan? Rather than trying to change his plan to save everyone like unto Lucifer, we must have Faith in him and his ability to judge us properly and do as Jesus did, saying “thy will be done”. That requires trust in Him.

    I trust that God knows me and all of his children. I know that he will give us what we truly desire, as evidenced by what we seek after. And I know that if one prays with a sincere heart as spoken of in Moroni 10, anyone can know the embrace of His love and find the trust necessary to believe in His plan for us. Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Eternal Progression

    In my previous article on Growth, I mentioned that God was perfect, and as such did not grow, unlike us. This raises the question, what does eternal progression mean?

    Far too often, we misunderstand the relationship between growth in this mortal life, and eternal increase. As pointed out previously, our bodies are not necessary for, and even interfere with our mental and spiritual growth. God grants us growth and perfects us. Thus because of this, divine growth is neither slow nor gradual; it is immediate and complete.

    An example of this is when a man first finds Christ in his life. Anyone who as been truly converted can say without a doubt, that the Lord freed them from their sins. When one is freed from the bondage of sin, it is not a slow gradual thing. One is either free or in bondage, there is no state of half bondage. One is either clean or unclean, there is no such thing as partially filthy.

    Likewise God cleanses, perfects, and sanctifies all of his children in an instant, as soon as they accept the prerequisite conditions to become so. It is a quantum leap in change, not a gradual increase. Perfection is not a long sought out eventual goal. It is granted, as stated in Moroni 7, through Christ. While true perfection is not possible in this life, it is easily granted in the resurrection.

    In fact as stated before, the prerequisites for living in the Kingdoms of glory are cleanliness, perfection, and holiness. We need to be in that state prior to receiving our final inheritance.

    Now if we look to the scriptures, neither the words “eternal progress” nor the words “eternal increase” are found anywhere in the standard works. In fact, the word progress itself is used only six times simply to denote a moving forward in a journey, or the growth of the church. It has nothing to do with the eternal.

    So where does this idea come from? What does it mean, and who does it apply to? These are all very important and serious questions. The term “eternal progression” appears to have been originally coined by Brigham Young. But regardless of where the term comes from we can look at the words themselves to understand how and to who it applies.

    As stated before, Eternal is the name of god. As such, one can in replace the word Eternal with “Divine” or “God-like” to gain a greater understanding of what it means. For example Eternal marriage is a divine marriage, or a marriage that is the same as His. Eternal Life is a life similar to His, and so on and so forth. Thus Eternal progression, is to progress as He does.

    Thus it clearly applies to those that are on the same level as Him, namely those of a Celestial glory. Likewise since He is perfect and holy, there is no issue of growing or gaining, as he has all knowledge, power and also owns the universe. How He progresses is fundamentally an issue of progressing in one's journey towards a goal, the goal of raising progeny and creating worlds without end. As Joseph Smith himself taught “...God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children.

    President Joseph Fielding Smith put it aptly “Do you not see that it is in this manner that our Eternal Father is progressing? Not by seeking knowledge which he does not have, for such a thought cannot be maintained in the light of scripture. It is not through ignorance and learning hidden truth that he progresses, for if there are truths which he does not know, then these things are greater than he, and this cannot be. Why can't we learn wisdom and believe what the Lord has revealed?

    Here we can clearly see that there is no focus on personal growth, as that is fundamentally a selfish thing. Is not my studying and becoming smarter simply about self? God has moved beyond such trifles, and instead is a source of light to all.

    So too must we move past this mentality of eternally trying to get better. While it is important for us to try to better ourselves in this world, it is not the focus of the eternities and as such should not be our focus here as well. That is a Telestial mindset at best. As stated before those of a celestial mindset live for others and forget themselves as Jesus did.

    Doing as He did is an important key to understand Eternal increase. Joseph Smith stated further “What did Jesus do? Why I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.

    From this we clearly see that our raising up a kingdom via the increase of our progeny is the key to progression. We raise up seed unto Him, and commit our kingdom unto Him. Progress in this fashion, is no different than the progress of generations. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the grandfather who is then glorified by the posterity of his sons and daughters.

    Thus it is that we are able to achieve these higher exaltations, which exaltations are subsets of the Celestial Glory, continuing to infinity, each patterned after the last, but greater and more glorious.

    It is a fractal pattern, each individual in the Celestial glory being unique and different despite following after the same pattern. This glory is not something we can comprehend without seeing the eternities for ourselves.

    What He has in store for us is so great that it cannot be uttered by man, but we can see even the smallest beginnings of that glory in our own homes. It is in the home where love is born. It is there that purpose is found. It is there that the eternities are mirrored.

    Eternal progression or Eternal Increase can also be stated to be the only true and Eternal purpose. Beyond salvation and perfection, it is the holy and sacred crown of All. Thus we need to take responsibility and treat the home with the the reverence and respect that it deserves.

    All too often we get caught up in whatever activities that we have in our lives that distracts from the real purposes that are right in front of our face. If we cannot take care of our families now, and if we do not seek after the welfare of our own seed, then how could we possibly care for progeny in the world to come?

    The Lord is there for us, and seeks to raise us up to Him. But we must do as He does and lose ourselves in the service to our family. For he that is greatest of all is the servant of all. If we do these things and use the powers and dominions granted to us to protect and serve those for whom we are responsible, then I know that we can have the joy of having posterity in the eternities to follow, of this I testify, Amen.