Monday, January 07, 2013

Sunday School: God the Father

With the start of the new year, LDS Sunday School starts over in the Gospel Principles manual. I never get tired of these lessons. Even though these lessons focus on the basics; there is so much to ponder.

The first lesson in the manual begins with the most fundamental principle: God. I think that the denial of Gods existence is a modern invention. Until recently, cultures throughout history may have had differing beliefs about God, but they all believed in something. But I suppose even if you believed in uncertainty and quantum mechanics as the first cause, that is a belief system since no one has observed the moment of creation despite our big telescopes, background radiation, and evolving theories.

How do we know that there is a God? the scriptures say it best:

"all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 30:44)

"For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God."
(New Testament, Hebrews, Chapter 3:4)

The beauty of nature and the fact that the Universe is calibrated for life to flourish is a testament to the reality of Intelligent Design. Lottery tickets aside, when you consider the variety and beauty on this Earth, we could be living on a Stars Wars-esque ice planet like Hoth, a dessert planet like Tatooine, or a volcanic planet like Mustafar.

When you think about it, why should the universe be calibrated for life at all? As the pinnacle of intelligent beings on our Earth, how do humans benefit the Universe at all that the Universe should be calibrated to support us? If the Universe is headed toward a slow cold death, then how and why did highly complex intelligent beings like humans exist at all? Why are there not more complex and intelligent beings than humans? Imagine living in a world where humans were only the 3rd or fourth most intelligent beings.

Why do we need to know about God? When you understand that that there is a God, it is then imperative to understand Him. Understanding God and our relationship to Him helps us know who we are and our purpose in life. It is especially important to know about God since God has revealed that he both rewards and punishes. If God is dealing out rewards and punishments, the scriptures warn us not to procastinate the day when we go about seeking to know God.

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."(New Testament, Hebrews, Chapter 11:6)

God is our Heavenly Father. In fact, "Father" is the title that God prefers over all others. Accordingly, our Heavenly Father watches over creation with paternal care. What this means is that humans are not just pet fish in a tank. God doesn't watch us fight for entertainment and if some die, flush us down the toilet and go out to the store to buy more.

I'm a father of 4 children. I can't even imagine watching my children fighting for sport. If one gets sick, I don't just exchange him at the store for another or return him for a refund. This may seems preposterous to consider until you realize that this kind of thing is exactly how the Romans and Greek Empires viewed their Gods. Remember how the Greek gods in the Iliad watched humans like Hector and Achilles fight. And if you think this kind of story is harmless, then remember how the Roman people and Emperor would watch gladiators fight or wild animals kill captives from conquered lands for sport in their Colosseums. Our belief about God does matter.

Heavenly Father is a glorified tangible being with a glorified body, parts and passions. Stephen as well as Joseph Smith beheld Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. The Bible and other scriptures talk about the righteous anger, love, jealousy, justice and mercy of God. Our Heavenly Father is a God of righteous feelings and compassion who understands our pains and sorrows as well as our joy and happiness. The Pearl of Great Price records how God wept as He beheld the wickedness and suffering of His children.

"And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses, Moses 7:29)

God has a glorified body. The purpose of life is for spirit children of God to come to Earth and receive a body like that of Heavenly Father and learn to "drive" and control it. Satan can never have his own body. Therefore he nor his followers can ever feel pleasure and pain except through possession. Satan continually tries to degrade the body and its importance by self abuse with drugs, and disfigurement by piercings and tattoos. Chinese foot binding, Mayan cranial deformation, Mursi lip plates and Kayan neck rings are all a symptom of this.

The truth of God is that He is a corporeal being with a glorified body and not some nebulous cloud or expansive energy. After death man will one day, through Christ, be raised from the dead in the resurrection just as Christ rose from the dead and others with Him. In heaven we will enjoy the same sociality that exists here on Earth and "will know as we are known" (1 Cor 13:12).

"When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 130:1-2)

Understanding our relationship with God gives man his sense of great self worth. Rabi Kushner, a prominent Jewish writer and scholar, commented in a talk at BYU that knowing that the creator of the universe cares what I eat, or who I sleep with gives him a great sense of personal worth.

Heavenly Father is a personal God who is concerned with the details of our lives. God is not the Deist's clockmaker who wound the Universe up like a clock and is away on business until the clocks alarm sounds. While we don't need to pray and ask what flavor ice cream we should have, we can have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, learn to recognize His voice in scripture and through prayer and align our thoughts and will with His thoughts and will.

It is essential to understand that God the Father and God the Son are distinct individuals. Some say, "Christ is in me, I'm saved". They forget Christ was sent to condescend and rescue us as we are but then elevate us to the level of the Father. When you forget the Father, you miss out of the mission of Christ to help us repent and become more like our Father in Heaven. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of the Father. So in addition to accepting Christ's rescue, we need to then allow Him to change us and perfect us. When we accept Christ and are rescued from our sinful state, the sanctifying and perfecting work is not done but has just begun.

When learning about God it is easy to mistakenly create God in our image. I have had friends who were passionate about wrestling or basketball say things like, "when I see Christ again, I can see us having a wrestle or playing an epic game of 1-on-1." My thoughts on this were that we need to take care that we don't make up a God in our image but allow Christ to transform us into His image.

We can have a personal relationship with God. However, some people may not really like heaven that much. If you think about it, you may not like the kind of music God listens to, read the same books, have the same hobbies, or even talk about the things that God enjoys discussing. What does God like to do? The scriptures tell us.

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Pearl of Great Price, Moses, Moses 1:39)

When I imagine a meeting with God, I don't picture us playing a game of horse, but talking about His work. What is His work? I imagine He would be interested in my personal development, repentance, and righteousness. He would be concerned with the care for and relationship with my wife, the care of my children, and my responsibilities in home teaching, missionary work, church callings, and family history and temple work.

Through prayer and through the scriptures we can learn to hear His voice. Through righteous obedience, charity and virtue we can feel the presence of His Spirit with us. And by doing His work we can grow closer to our Heavenly Father, become more like Him. Ultimately, God promises us that if we really seek to know Him he will not only "draw near" unto us but literally appear to us (D&C 76:116). The quality of our relationship with God depends upon our desires, willingness, and faithfulness.

You can't come to a knowledge and understanding of God through debate, argumentation, socratic questioning, scholarly writing or the scientific method. There is no man-made instrument that can measure or observe God. When God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in upstate New York in 1820; Joseph Smith learned more about God in that theophany than all the religious scholars and theologians had corrupted over the previous 1500 years. You can't prove God to someone else, only God can reveal himself to you. Even explaining what the presence of God feels like is like trying to explain to someone what salt tastes like. You must prepare, calibrate, tune your heart to receive Him, and taste it for yourself.

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 16:17)


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful message concerning how God's children can come to know Him through his Son. Thank you, David for sharing your thoughts and feelings while solidifying them with Scripture.

Colin said...

I didn't know where to leave a general comment about the site so I am just leaving it here. I stumbled upon your site and have read a few posts. Do you know who Halton Arp is? this site shows pictures of him disproving the current theory of red shift, and thus the theory of the big bang loses what is considered its biggest evidence. I don't claim to know a ton about astronomy or cosmology or anything else. But I have always felt that the big bang and all their notions of black holes and dark matter are rather...evidence..less.. What are your thoughts on these things? I am asking you because you seem to know at least a fair amount more than I do concerning these things and because I have seen from your posts that you seek to tell the truth as far as you have it, and refrain from assumptions that you do not know for sure, as well as avoiding the common "well the higher authorities would have done something by now if it weren't true". Please let me know. Thank you.

David B said...

To be completely honest, I would havd to say "i don't know". However, I am aware of various alternative theories to explain redshift such as the Einstein gravitational effect or dark matter or elemental hydrogen. When Christ comes he is going to go through the history of the Earth from start to finish. Why? Because it is likely that much of what we think we know is wrong. Satan's control over humanity relies on misinformation. If we fail to learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Satan makes sure even what we try to learn is wrong. However, he also spreads other false ideas and theories to cloud the issues. So, I am sure our current theories are at least incomplete, but Im not sure which of all the alternative theories is the correct one.

David B said...

Red shift is important. If it wasnt for red shift, it wouldnt get dark at night when the sun set. All the infinite galaxies would light up the night sky light it was noonday.