Sunday, January 13, 2013

2 Awesome LDS Videos

"Reclaimed" by Elder Shayne M. Bowen. Thanks to Christ, our landfill souls have been reclaimed and made clean and useful.

"Stay within the lines" by Elder Jeffery R. Holland. This most critical time in the Earth's history. There are just seconds left on the play clock and we all must decide now to be players on the field.

Seasonal Veganism?

This post explores a question with regard to Section 89's direction to "eat meat sparingly". Sparingly can be kind of a subjective. While I dont consider this question threatening my eternal salvation, I think I personally could observe the word of wisdom better in many respects.

First off, God tells the Shakers that it is not correct to abstain from eating meat. Peter in the vision to baptize the gentile Cornelius was told to arise and eat, and the resurrected Christ ate broiled fish.

18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 49)

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89)

So, my question is this: how should we interpret the phrase "And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine". Does this mean:

1. And it is pleasing unto me that they only be used in times of winter, cold, or famine?


2. And it is pleasing unto me that they not only be used in times of winter, cold, or famine?

I have always understood this to mean #2 because of the (not only). However the comma placement in the original (used,) makes it read a little ambiguously.

I've never heard LDS leadership preach seasonal veganism. However, understanding that grain should be the "staff of life" we see the first description of the food pyramid with grain as a foundation and meat near the top. Veggies and Fruits making up the middle.

My family uses plastic plates on occasion that are divided into 3 sections of differing size kinda like some microwave dinners. When I think of the Lord's council of eating meat sparingly, I look at the divided plate and visualize the whole grains, legumes, rice portion fitting into the largest section, the serving of meat fitting into the smallest section and the fresh fruit and veggies fitting the middle-sized section.

It is my opinion that limiting meat portion size relative to whole grains, and in-season fresh fruits and veggies best captures the spirit of the the Lord's counsel to His Saints to "eat meat sparingly". Together with eating food that is in-season, fresh (not necessarily organic) with minimal processing can have both health and economic benifits to your local agricultural community. Shopping organic in many cases doesn't mean food is healthier, local or fresh. Usually its just much more expensive.

My family pays $15/week for a service called "Bountiful Basket". According to this program, you pay your money the week prior and the service delivers several boxes of locally produced in-season produce the next week. You never know what your gonna get. Its kind of exciting to see what comes and even more exciting to try and make use and use up everything you get.

There is a ton of dietary misinformation out there on the internet, tv and radio. The media tells us one week to be veggans and that cow methane is contributing to global warming. The next week they are telling us to shun all carbs or milk products, etc.

I'm sure without revelation it would be impossible to know what to believe. That's why I am grateful for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. Through continuing revelation, Joseph Smith asked these important questions of the Lord and Gods people have received clear direction and counsel.

Learning by Faith and Hoosiers

I am the ward mission leader for my home ward. What that means is that I get to hang out with LDS missionaries a bunch. As we were driving around we usually engage in gospel conversation.

Part of the lesson today in the Teachings of the Prophet Lorenzo Snow was on "Learning by Faith." Today we learned in scripture that:

1. where there is no law there is no sin. (Rom 4:15)
2. you cannot be saved in ignorance. (D&C 1:6)
3. Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. (D&C 130:18)
4. The glory of God is intelligence. (D&C 93:36)

My thoughts on this are that first, you can't get to the end and claim ignorance or agnosticism claiming intellectual honesty. God says, ask and ye shall receive. We are all expected to search out God and ask and not procrastinate until it is everlastingly too late.

Second, is the promise that the "principle of intelligence" we attain in this life will rise with us in the resurrection. What is "principle of intelligence?" In heaven, we will have access to all knowledge and have prefect comprehension, understanding, and total recall. However, just because you can know everything doesn't mean you will care to know it. My view of education has been less about how much information I've memorized but learning how much mankind doesn't know and learning to love to learn.

I asked the missionaries what came to mind when they thought of "mysteries of godliness". The response was "Kolob, Ark of the Covenant, Liahona, and the Hill Cumorah, City of Zarahemla". I said that those artifacts and places were extremely interesting and important but probably not the mysteries God and prophets like Nephi are referring to.

Firstly, when the scriptures refer to the Mysteries, they are referring to receiving the Covenants and blessings of God's Temple. But like the scriptural artifacts, cosmology, and archeology; its not the physical artifacts that are the most important. The reason the Liahona like the Temple is important is the teachings that are taught through them. Through the Liahona, for example, we are taught that by our daily faith, and steadfastness in small and simple things can we progress in our journey in this life. The lessons are much more important than the objects, places and symbols themselves.

The real mysteries of godliness have to do with learning to love and serve God and your fellow man. Mysteries concern learning faith, serenity, patience and long-suffering in the face of great tribulation abs adversity. While the great secrets of evil have to do with how to lie, cheat, steal, mislead, dup, con, coerce, enslave and force others to do what you will. The great mysteries of God have to do with how to help influence and motivate others to voluntarily and joyfully choose and follow principles of righteousness without coercion.

One of the missionaries asked of I thought other planets required other Saviors. I said, I didn't know for sure. All we know about is our Earth. But we know that God the Son, under the direction of God the Father created "worlds without number" and that Jesus Christ was the Savior for all of God's children. How this works, I'm not altogether sure but that got me thinking about how faith in Christ works on other planets. I mean we talk about Christ being born, living and dying 2000 years ago in Israel. Imagine being told to have faith in a being born on a distant planet.

That thought got me thinking that I should probably visit Israel some day. I mean, I guess it could be like living in Atlanta and never having visited the Aquarium, Coke Museum or Stone Mountain. I wonder in the eternities whether I'll meet brothers and sisters from other Earth-like planets who will ask me what it was like to be born on the same planet where Christ was born. I wonder if they will ask if I had ever visited the land of Christ's birth?

In reaction to that thought my wife said, "now let me get this straight, am I to understand, that you suddenly have a burning desire to visit Jerusalem because of the possibility that in the eternities, beings from other planets may ask you if you had ever visited the place of Christ's birth and you are hoping to avoid an eternity of possible awkward situations?" "Yes", I responded, "that pretty much sums it up".

Back with the Missionaries, I asked them; realizing that out of all the countless Earth's in the Universe, you choose to come to this Earth where Christ was born and were Lucifer himself was cast. Our of all the times in Earth's history, you choose to make your appearance in the Last Days during the time of the greatest wickedness and greatest righteousness of all time ever anywhere in the Universe?

Additionally, you decided that you didn't just want to be a spectator in the bleachers or on the sidelines but you wanted to be a player on the field during the final critical seconds. Furthermore, as the missionary for the Kingdom of God, you didn't just want to be on the field but you want the the ball in the final seconds to bare off the kingdom triumphant into the Millennium? LDS missionaries are like Intergalactic Jimmy Chitwoods (Hoosiers) who with seconds left on the clock told the coach, 'give me the ball, "I'll make it"'.

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)