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Nine Moons : 2004 : August » 2004 » August

Women holding the priesthood?

Don - August 30, 2004

The first presidency message in the August Ensign has an interesting statement by President Faust. He says: “The priesthood is held in trust to be used to bless all of God’s children. Priesthood is not gender; it is blessings from God for all at the hands of the servants He has designated.”

What does he means the priesthood is not gender? Does that open the door for the possibility that women could hold the priesthood? Is there any scripture that in fact specifically prohibits women from holding the priesthood?

That got me thinking further. In the temple some of the priesthood temple ordainances are performed by women. Washing and annointings are priesthood ordainances, how do women perform these ordainances without having the priesthood?

The last thought was how would I feel and what would be the general membership’s reaction if the first presidency announced that women could hold the priesthood?

Who is the Holy Ghost, really?

Don - August 27, 2004

I was preparing my talk on revelation (thank you all for your comments) and got thinking about the Holy Ghost. Who is he?

He’s a spirit, we know that. Is he one of God the Father’s spirit children….our brother? If so how does that work? Does he have special powers given to him that the rest of us didn’t have so he can carry out his mission? Did he volunteer in the premortal council like the Savior did? How did he know that a Holy Ghost was needed on this earth life, was that part of the plan that was presented?

If he’s not a spirit child of God, then where did he come from. Was he something on “God’s earth”? Was he assigned to this earth by some other means? Is he assigned to this earth only, or does he cover all the worlds that Christ created? If to this earth only, then are there other Holy Ghosts on other earths, or are they righteous enough that they don’t need one?

If he is a spirit child of God, then does he get a body then be “twinkled” so he can be Celestialized? When does that happen?

Does he continue on as the Holy Ghost after this earth is Celestialized, either here (which I don’t see the need) or continue on other or another earth?

I could go on with lots more questions. Not that we can answer any, some or all of these questions. To me they are interesting jumping off spots…but it just shows me how little we really know.

I can hear it now – we shouldn’t be speculating on things like this…we should be consentrating on the basics of the gospel. I find the basics difficult to understand, especially as we delve into them. How does faith work anyway? And how does mercy work…and repentenace? And how do I go about resurrecting myself? Just asking!

The Book of Mormon and Mercy

Rusty - August 26, 2004

Joseph Smith says in Lectures on Faith that in order to have faith in God unto salvation, three ideas must be present in our minds:

1) The idea that God exists.
2) That the course we are living is in line with God’s will.
3) A correct understanding of His attributes and characteristics. Namely, omnipotence, omniscience, love, justice, mercy, he changes not, he cannot lie, no respecter of persons, etc.

For the purpose of this post I am going to assume numbers 1 and 2. The third one is a bit more intriguing to me because it seems to require a great deal of knowledge. JS goes on to explain exactly why we need to understand and believe that God has each characteristic.

I would like to posit that the attribute of Mercy might just be the most important one for us to understand, as it pertains to our life and salvation. Here’s why: none of the others motivate me to repent of my sins. Even his love doesn’t motivate me unless there is something in it for me (as cynical as that sounds, could we honestly say that we’d repent if there was no hope of us being forgiven?)

In this light, my study of the Book of Mormon has changed. First of all, I now see that one of the major underlying causes of sin is not understanding God’s characteristics (1 Ne. 2:12, 1 Ne. 3:31, Alma 9:5, and countless others). Conversely, understanding his attributes and characteristics will lead us to keep his commandments, repent, and on to salvation.

Enter: Mercy.

If God’s mercy were his most important message, then shouldn’t it be plastered all throughout the BOM? Yes. Yes it should. And is it ever. The word mercy (or any of it’s many forms) appears some 150 or so times in the BOM. All the other attributes combined might equal this. Of course the numbers only indicate a larger message.

First chapter of the Book of Mormon: 1 Ne. 1:20 Nephi prefaces the BOM by saying that, “…I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” So he is setting the stage, he is beginning this great book by telling us that he is going to show us the Lord’s mercy.

Last chapter of the Book of Mormon: Moroni 10:3 This is a very familiar scripture, especially to those who served missions trying to convince investigators to read and pray about the BOM. There is some interesting wording here, however, that is easy to miss, especially in the context of wanting someone to read the BOM and pray about it. It says, “remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts” (emphasis added). He is admonishing us to ponder “it” in our hearts, “how merciful the Lord has been”. All of those instances of mercy that we read about in the BOM, ponder them, and ask if the Lord is truly that merciful.

So Nephi begins by saying that the book is going to be full of instances of the Lord’s mercy. Moroni ends it by admonishing us to look through the whole book at all those instances and ask if that truly was the case. So what are some of those instances? I’ll select a couple among the copious examples.

1 Ne. 8:8 After many hours in darkness, what is it Lehi prays for? “…mercy…according to the multitude of his tender mercies.”

Alma 32:22 Immediately after Alma gives his definition of faith, what does he implore us to do with that faith? To “remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name.”

That same chapter is about faith and the parable of the seed. The next chapter, verse 23 he desires we plant “this word” in our hearts. What word? Verses 4-13 Zenos teaches that the Lord is merciful, and specifically in vs. 11, 13 the “Lord is merciful because of [God’s] Son” THAT is the word that Alma wants us to plant in our hearts.

I have a hard time believing that there is a more important message in the Book of Mormon: that the Lord is merciful and he is willing to forgive us if we would repent. THAT is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Don - August 24, 2004

My wife and I get to talk in Sac. Meeting on Sunday. Our subject is Revelation. She is going to talk about personal revelation. She has a lot more experience in that area than I do.

I thought it would be interesting to answer the question “What is the most important revelation?” I’ve got an idea on what direction I want to take this, but I thought some feedback would be helpful. And if the feedback is good enough then my talk will be all prepared for me! Thanks. But seriously, what’s the answer to the question?

God and the time domain

Don - August 23, 2004

I’m no physics expert. I don’t understand quarks, strings and those other advanced Einstein stuff. Hopefully I understand enough to at least ask the question.

I think, according to Einstein, to be subject to time or the time domain you must have mass. It’s all tied up with the speed of light, gavity and mass. There was an experiment done where a jet plane with an atomic clock flew west from a point and one flew east from the same point, after circling the globe and arrive back at the begining one clock had lost time and one clock had gained time.

There is also a theory that if you had twin brothers and one remained on the earth and other was able to fly at just under the speed of light to the nearest star and back that the flying brother would be 2 years younger than his earthbound brother, when he arrived back at earth.

If time really does require that we have mass then I wonder what our resurrected bodies will be made out of. Yes they are “physical” or at least we “feel” them. Can you feel something that doesn’t have mass? (I don’t think so?!)

Does anti-matter exist? If it does, then does anti-matter counteract matter or mass. So could something have mass but also have an equal amount of anti-matter so it behaves as if it doesn’t have mass….at least as far as time goes.

I know J.S. said that there is no such thing as immaterial matter, some is just more refined. What does that mean? Can it be so refined that it doesn’t have mass?

The reason I bring this whole thing up is if we don’t have mass then we aren’t subject to time, and if we aren’t subject to time then we can travel to whatever earth or earths we want faster than instantaneously. If we have matter and we are subject to time then it appears that the speed of light limits the speed of our travel.

I don’t know if that is clear…any thoughts?


Rusty - August 22, 2004

I just installed the HaloScan comment code so that you don’t have to sign in to make comments on this blog. Hopefully, this will encourage more people to leave comments. However, by adding this code to the blog, I have somehow eliminated the comments of the previous posts. If you would like to view those comments, please click on the title of the post to the right and the comments are available there. Sorry about the inconvenience. Henceforth and forever the comments will be more convenient, thanks to HaloScan.

When should you take “Advice”?

Don - August 19, 2004

Shortly after attending a Stake conference and hearing one of the Stake presidency give a talk on business, businesses and ethics I was scheduled for a temple recommend interview. As “luck” would have it I was interviewed by this member of the Stake presidency.

After finishing the regular questions I asked him about his talk. Being in the movie theater business and being open on Sundays and showing our share of “R” rated movies I was interested in his thoughts. He explained to me how he felt about the entertainment industry and especially the problems with “R” rated movies. He told me that if he were me he’d get out of the business.

We talked for about 20 minutes. He concluded by saying that he wasn’t telling me to get out of the business, but if he were me, he would get out.

I came out of that interview a bit defensive, justifing my position, but then again trying to be humble and obedient.

My question is: Is “advice” in an interview like this “counsel” that should be taken and obeyed? Or is it just an opinion that should be taken like anyone else’s opinion?

Mormon Art and Architecture, Installment 1: Symbolism

Rusty - August 18, 2004

What happened to visual symbolism in the Church? Does it even exist anymore? Aside from the few examples in the temple ceremonies, I have a hard time coming up with examples of any visual symbols that we recognize as church members (Sorry, but a CTR ring is an acronym, not a symbol). Yes, I understand that there is symbolism in the way we live our lives according to the covenants that we make. But that begs the question: why don’t we portray it visually? (and I’m not talking about a Greg Olsen painting of a deacon passing the sacrament…)

Let’s take architecture for example. The Salt Lake Temple. Almost every decision on that building contains a symbolic meaning: from the number of levels of windows, to the sun, Saturn, Earth, moon, and star stones, to the direction it is facing, to the ascension from one room to the next, etc. The building is drenched in symbolism. What purpose did this serve? Because it looked nice?

What do we have now? Nice buildings in which symbolic ideas are presented and symbolic acts are performed. Hey, what we do inside is what’s important, right? Of course that’s right, but why the shift? Was Brigham Young just a bit overzealous? Is visual symbolism something of the past? Is it too hard or too expensive to do nowdays or does the Church purposefully avoid it? I know there have been attempts, but I’m sorry, the [Statue of Liberty] torch doorhandles inside the Manhattan temple just don’t cut it for me.

Another example: Greg Olsen, Robert Barrett, Del Parson, Arnold Friberg paintings. If I were to assess the Church based on the art it spoonfeeds to the public, I would think that the Church’s stance on the Book of Mormon is that it’s a bunch of stories about strong, Anglo men. The policy of the Ensign magazine is that there is no conceptual art allowed. Are we chuchmembers not smart enough to understand symbolism?

When Picasso abstracted his paintings he didn’t do it because he didn’t know how to paint (boy could he paint! At age 15 his paintings rivalled Rafael!), but rather because there were deeper insights he was trying to communicate. One of my favorite paintings of all time, and one of the most touching paintings for me is Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square (to see a photo click here, I don’t know how to add photos yet).

I don’t necessarily mind the paintings of those Mormon painters, to visualize a narrative, but I have a very difficult time extracting gospel insight or meaning from a single one. Shouldn’t that be the role of our art? To give meaning and insight to our lives as we try to live the Gospel? Art as narrative plays that role by proxy. It might give meaning, but only because we know the story behind the painting, not because the symbolism of the piece inspired us.

Four Plans…and a fifth, I guess

Rusty - August 15, 2004

This week as I prepared my lesson for Gospel Doctrine class, I realized there is a short list of possible Plans of Salvation, as proposed (or implied) by those in the scriptures. They are as follows:

1) No agency. All are saved. This was Lucifer’s original proposal.

2) Agency. All are saved. See Nehor (Alma 1:4) and Corianton (Alma 42:1)

3) Agency. Suffer a little bit. All are saved. See 2 Ne 28:8.

4) Agency. Only those who repent are saved. See Jesus Christ, Alma 41-42, rest of scriptures.

This fifth one isn’t in the scriptures, however…
5) Agency. Nobody is saved because there is nothing after this life. See New York City, 2004.

We know from Alma 42 that under the conditions of option #4 the demands of justice are satisfied. Fine.

Under the laws laid out by Alma, the demands of justice wouldn’t be satisfied in the examples of #2 and #3.

Option #5 is a different beast which I won’t address at this point, although I’m up for hearing any opinions as to how justice would relate to it.

Lucifer’s original proposal, however, is intriguing to me. From what I understand, the demands of justice would be satisfied in that case. Because there is no sin, there is no need for an Atonement to satisfy the demands of justice. Does this mean that Satan was well aware of eternal laws (that even God is bound to) and proposed his plan accordingly? It seems that once Satan realized his original proposal wasn’t going to happen, he’s been trying to implement numbers 2, 3, & 5 ever since.

The Funniness of God

Rusty - August 11, 2004

Is God funny?

I don’t mean this in the casual sense where we attribute humor to God because something ironic or terrible happend. I mean it in it’s most literal sense? Does He make jokes? Does He laugh at our jokes?

The question calls to mind a conversation between Jerry and George on Seinfeld:

JERRY: I think Superman probably has a very good sense of humor.
GEORGE: I never heard him say anything really funny.
JERRY: But it’s common sense. He’s got super strength, super speed.. I’m sure he’s got super humor.
GEORGE: You would think that, but either you’re born with a sense of humor, or you’re not. It’s not going to change even if you go from the red sun of Krypton all the way to the yellow sun of the Earth.
JERRY: Why? Why would that one area of his mind not be affected by the yellow sun of Earth?
GEORGE: I don’t know but he ain’t funny.

That’s not bad logic. God is all-powerful, all-knowing­—why wouldn’t he be all-funny?

I once heard a story about President Kimball (anyone feel free to prove this to be a mission legend) and one day he exited his office laughing. Someone asked why he was laughing, after all, he was in there by himself. He responded that he had just told God a joke and they laughed together (boy, in the retelling it sounds even less true). Now, regardless of the veracity of this story it has caused me to examine the question. I mean, when we say the perfect word at the perfect time, does he laugh?

This, of course, leads me to the question (assuming an affirmative answer to the first): of what stock is God’s humor? Lamentably, I must admit that the majority of that which makes me laugh comes at the expense of someone else—in some way, shape, or form. Conversly, my late grandpa received great joy from good, clean puns, of which I received more joy making fun of the pun than laughing at it. But I rarely found one to be funny.

So what is Divine Humor?

How Good Do We Have To BE?

Don - August 10, 2004

I proposed and interesting thought in S.S. class the other day. First I expressed my hope that the Millenium would hurry up and get here. Here’s why. I don’t know for sure if I’m Celestial material yet…hopefully I am, but I still have a lot of problems and sins to overcome (just ask my wife) anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m a good solid Terrestial type guy. If I die and go to Paradise I will have some time there to “pay” for my sins and change as best as one can in a spirit body.

If I remain long enough in Paradise then maybe I can clean up my act enough to get a Celestial resurrection at the begining of the Millenium.

If the Millenium comes now and I’m Terrestial I get to stay on the earth, I have another 43 years until I’m twinkled. During that 43 years there won’t be the temptations around anymore that there is now. It has got to be much easier to live a Celestial life then. The children born during the Millenium will grow up to salvation…it’ll be like the Nephites after Christ visited them and or like living in the city of Enoch. So I think under those circumstances I can make it from Terrestial to Celestial. Then I’m twinkled into a Celestial body and I have another 957 years to perfect that Celestial body so I can be ready to be exalted when the big judgement day comes.

I’d rather take my chances in the Millenium than in Paradise.

I know I should do it here in this earth life, that’s what it’s for and all that…but it’s hard!!!

My point is that we shouldn’t be discouraged by the gospel and the thought that we aren’t good enough or can’t make it into the Celestial Kingdom. God’s plan of Happiness is designed to save as many of His children as He can within the bounds of justice and mercy.

Think about the progress we can make in perfecting ourselves during the Millenium. 1,000 years is a long long long time. With Satan bound because of the righteousness of the people the whole expereience is going to be considerable better than this one. How much more can we learn and do in our progression when we don’t have to worry about Satan, about striving to earn more to get a bigger better whatever. Time, what a glorious earth-thing it is and we can use that 1,000 years to qualify to be Celestialized.

Experience vs. Righteousness

Rusty - August 9, 2004

Yesterday in Gospel Doctrine I asked a question that I have pondered for years. Is it better for us to screw up and repent (through the experience we learn and grow) or to never have messed up at all? It stems from Alma’s discussion with his son Helaman when he implores him to learn wisdom in his youth. This seems to be pretty good advice. However, Alma was a great prophet who accomplished great things, yet he wasn’t very wise when he was in his youth. I can somewhat understand the sentiment of not wanting his son to go through what he had to go through. But I wonder, was it because of his early experiences that made him the great person that he was? I mean, how much greater was his empathy now to those in wickedness because he had gone through what they were going through? I personally have never had any problem with tobacco in my life, therefore it’s difficult for me to be empathetic to those with tobacco withdrawls. Someone that was once addicted and has overcome the cravings can sure help that person much better than I can.

(which brings up the interesting question of why wasn’t Alma more empathetic to his wicked son? He may have been. Or maybe that’s not what his son needed at that point. I’m not sure. But that is a topic for another day)

So is it a question of empathy? I mean, if we never screw up how can we relate to what others are dealing with? It’s really hard for me to have empathy on the prideful…I have no idea what that’s like…

Or is it a question of experience in order that those after us don’t make the same mistakes? That then leads to another question: from which people do we better learn our lessons? Those who have sad experience then overcome, or those who teach solely by principle?

Jesus Christ never screwed up, yet he seemed to know all the right answers and was not that bad at empathizing either. We learn in Alma that, “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.” Yet that doesn’t come through experiencing sin.

CS Lewis said something very intersting about temptation: “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.” This reasoning ultimately leads us to Christ, and that he perfectly understands temptation, therefore he perfectly understands each one of our situations, therefore he can be the merciful being that he claims to be.

So does that mean by my resisting temptations I can be empathetic? That I can say, “I know what you are going through?” I’m not quite sure. But I’m also not convinced that that is the purpose of repentance and overcoming sin. Maybe it’s just a perk, to be empathetic to those around you who are struggling.

The quick answer to the question is that it’s better to never screw up in the first place. However, we live in a society where we make poor decisions all the time and there is a mountainfull of goodness that comes from those experiences that probably wouldn’t have existed otherwise. I just don’t know if it’s as black and white as one might initially presume.