Thursday, August 30, 2012

Answering or Skirting the Ends of the Law?

2 Nephi 2:7 "Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law,"

What are the "ends of the law"? Did God give commandments he never intended that we obey? No, we learn in 1 Nephi 3:7 that God never gives a commandment that He does not expect us to obey. The purpose or "ends" of God's commandments are that we learn to obey them and thereby receive the blessings and happiness which are predicated upon our obedience to those laws.

2 Nephi 2:22. Many LDS have trouble with this because it sounds like Lehi is saying we should all be grateful for Adam's transgression and that God gave contrary commendments which would seem to contradict 1Ne3:7.

It is my opinion that Lehi is first giving us Adam's good intended reason for transgressing after Eve had already partaken. The Bible only give us Eve's reason for partaking of the fruit (for knowledge). According to Adam's perspective, he thought he had to transgress to keep the other commandments: to multiply and remain with Eve. However, Adams perspective is not necessarliy God's perspective. There was likely another way. But Adams good intentions are good to know.

I also think Lehi could be saying that it's the commandments (law) of God that we should be thankful for and not just the transgression part. Had there been no commandments then there would have been no transgression nor command to multiply. Had there been no transgression, Adam would have not known sin, pain, etc. thus he wouldn't have had any concept of joy and happiness which was the default setting in the garden (no concept of warm if you had never been cold). And through the Atonement of Christ, God has provided the way whereby we can eventually obey all Gods commandments. This is how the atonement of Christ answers the ends of the law rather than skirting it.

When God gives us commandments, does He know we will transgress them? Yes. He knows we will initially. But He also knows that he has given us the Atonement of Christ and time to repent and eventually obey 100%. In the meantime we experience pain, and learn to appreciate joy. Therefore, through the process of repentance, and empowered obedience, this is how the Atonement of Christ answers the ends of the law.

The LDS Sacrament prayer is an excellent example of the true process of repentance. The prayers over the bread and water used in the LDS Communion or Lords Supper must be recited word perfect. There is no good enough or he gave it a good try. If a word is missed, or misspoken, the priest giving the prayer, recites the prayer again until he says it right. While it might seem harsh to some, the requirement really is a great example of true repentance. God knows its within our power to do it right, and we are given the time and assistance we need to get it right.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

God's Commandments are the Source of Agency

2 Nephi 2:22 "And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

Some people are confused at exactly what Lehi is trying to say here. Some have misunderstood Lehi's words as saying that the Fall of Adam was not only necessary but good. Lehi is not saying we should be thankful for sin?

No. What Lehi is saying is that the Fall was necessary, but the Fall wouldn't have been possible without the commandments of God. Because without the commandments, Adam and Eve would have remained in their innocent state forever. If there were no commandments, then their would have been no law, no right and wrong, no choice and no agency. And without the commandments of God, there would have been no command to have children, no happiness and no joy. Therefore, it's the word of God that we should be thankful for and not sin.

2 Ne. 10:23 "Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life."

Again, it's not access to "everlasting death" that should "cheer" our hearts. The Book of Mormon is not teaching that we should rejoice over sin and death. What the Book of Mormon is teaching is that we should rejoice over the commandments of God together with the Atonement of Christ. Death is the default setting. Without the commandments of God and the Atonenent, the Nephites watched their brethren the Lamanites become savages. Without the laws of God only the law of the jungle, appetites, passions and fear rule. But it's only through the commandments of God and Christ's Atonenent that we are made free. It is because of God that man can feel hungry but choose to fast, feel offended yet choose to forgive, feel fear, but choose understanding and love.

Some read 2 Nephi 2:22 and think Lehi is saying God gave contrary commandments and that Adam initially couldn't have obeyed Gods first commandments without breaking the second commandment. However, Nephi says God giveth no commandments without a way to obey them. So, Lehi is not saying the commandments of God were contrary. Despite Adam's feeling like the situation forced him into transgression. It's Satan who tells us there is no other way.

Instead, Lehi is explainining Adam's good intention was to also partake "that man may be", after Eve had already partaken of the fruit "to have knowledge". However, like Nephi and Laban, I think it would have been a better way for Adam if he had waited for God to have given His permission first; assuming some commandments are time and situation specific.

Monday, August 06, 2012

LDS Testimony

Testimony in a court of law involves knowlege of facts that were experientially obtained. The LDS testimony comprises truths that an individual knows to be true because this knowledge was divinely obtained. The LDS testimony ideally comprises 5 pieces of information. 1. That there is a living God who created the Universe and is our Heavely Father and that all humankind are His spiritual children. 2. That Jesus Christ is the only physically begotten Son of God and is the only Savior and Redeemer. 3. That Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to restore the true Church and gospel of Jesus Christ in these Last Days. 4. That the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the word of God together with the Bible. 5. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom on the Earth and is led by a true and living prophet who is the only person on the Earth to exercize all priesthood keys and authority over Christ's Church.

Each month, LDS hold testimony meetings were members of the congregation are invited to come to the podium and share their testimony of these 5 and other truths. On occasion members may forget what a proper LDS Testimony should involve and may unknowingly speak of something other than a testimony while speaking. Others have questioned if the LDS Testimony meetings are too rote or canned with everyone getting up to say the same exact thing.

Here is how I understand and look at this issue. There is so much that we disagree on as people. Everyone has a different idea about the best way to do whatever. Conversely, the amazing thing about the LDS Testimony, is that millions of poeple can get up and agree upon and be unified in our knowledge of a few very important things. The LDS Testimony is what unifies us as a people, a community, and a family.

As far a being rote. The basis of the LDS Testimony is 5 things: 1. God 2. Christ, 3. Joseph Smith 4. Book of Mormon 5. Living Prophet. The important thing to know is that getting up and declaring these 5 things is wonderful and is enough. However, to spice things up, LDS can also get up and explain an experience that they have had that may have increased their testimony in one of these 5 areas. Such as; I had an experience this week (briefly describe) and this experience strengthened by knowledge of 1-5. It's perfectly fine to share experiential knowledge together with spiritual knowledge to support our testimonies. Christ taught "if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God or I speak of myself". In other words, "try it and see if you like it".

LDS Testimony shouldn't be a travel log, or a "thank-a-mony" or a "let-me list-all-my-friends-amony", or "let-me confess-all-my-sins-publically-amony", etc. The LDS testimony shouldn't just comprise expressions of gratitude for our blessings, or describe all the details of our summer vacation or try to impress everyone with how socially connected we are. However, if we happened to be on a vacation and we had an experience that strengthened our knowledge in 1-5, or another principle of the gospel like helping the poor, family history, tithing, or whatever, then its fine to describe that very briefly but spend no time telling about how we went suba diving or saw this great cave and given other non-applicable details.

That said, you dont have to have some "experience" to share your testimony. It's perfectly fine to get up and give the 5, and sit down. No one should feel like they haven't had enough of an "experience" to share their testimony. Testimony meetings are not about being entertaining or "hearing some new thing".

Also, LDS know we should be careful and usually not relate personal spiritual experiences that involve visions. LDS can talk about "feeling the spirit" or "hearing the voice of the Spirit" while doing such-and-such or reading in the scriptures. We should not go into visions and such. These are sacred and should be shared with our immediate family and kept private in our personal journals.