Sunday, September 07, 2008

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I will be singing in my Stake Choir next week. One of the songs we will be singing is Mack Wilberg's arrangement of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." This is a wonderful, poetic and powerful hymn dedicated to Jesus Christ who is our foundation and "stone of help."

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;Streams of mercy, never ceasing,Call for songs of loudest praise.Teach me some melodious sonnet,Sung by flaming tongues above.Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

4. O to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

Intelligence and Spirit

I have increasing been confronted with an unfortunate misunderstanding of LDS Doctrine that has been propagated on the Internet recently. Some antagonists to the LDS church have been spreading a misunderstood description of LDS eternal life using imagery that makes it sound like the final destiny of LDS woman are that they are to become eternal, spirit-baby-making factories. Our opponents try to equate our doctrine with God telling Eve, " I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception." Whatever the mechanism involved with clothing self-existent intelligence with a spirit body, I am positive it is associated with a "fullness of joy" and not a "multiplicity of sorrow." I had always considered the LDS doctrine on women in eternity to honor women with an equal position together with their husbands. If that is so, where does this misunderstanding come from?

"God has made His children like Himself to stand erect, and has endowed them with intelligence and power and dominion over all His works, and given them the same attributes which He himself possesses. He created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be." (Journal of Discourses 11:122-123).

I think this process of creation that Brigham Young is more referring to is the process of parenting and nurture of a child by a loving father and a mother. In context, this is how God endows His children with intelligence, power and dominion by nurture and not just nature. Physical mechanisms don't pass on intelligence, power and dominion alone. Therefore, the mechanism of pro-creation or creation here is not necessarily speaking of a physical mechanism, sexual reproduction, uterine gestation, or pregnancy but of parenting, love, and nurturing. This important distinction differentiates pro-creation from reproduction. Pro-creation refers to the spiritual process of parenting while reproduction infers physical mechanisms.

Parenting is the process of creation in the heavens, on earth, and in all the eternities. Remember it takes more than just making a baby to raise a child and this is what Brigham Young was teaching. The eternal role and destiny for men and women is to be spiritual parents who are given spiritual stewardship over spirits who will pass through morality as we have. But these spirits according to Joseph Smith have always existed and are co-eternal with God and us. Therefore, a physical, tangible, resurrected, glorified, spirit parent doesn't necessarily need to gestate an intangible spirit in a uterus, but to nurture them as God nurtures and loves us. The important issue here is that whatever process was involved in the organization of the spirits of man; it was an act of generation and not just creation.

Also, the fact that our spirits are co-eternal with God is how the Bible can say that Christ purchased us, and how we are expected to give our whole souls to God. How can we give what is not ours? Why would God buy what is already His? Also, the fact or our self-existent nature and will is why God is not responsible for the evil of Satan. God did not create a defective spirit.

Joseph Smith clearly taught that the spirits of man were not created but are self-existent and co-eternal with God in the King Follett Discourse:

"We say that God himself is a self-existing God. Who told you so? It is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? (Refers to the old Bible.) How does it read in the Hebrew? It doesn't say so in the Hebrew; it says God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam's spirit, and so he became a living body. The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? Their friends and relatives are separated from their bodies for only a short season; their spirits existed coequal with God, and they now exist in a place where they converse together, the same as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man--on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God."

The Biblical says that God created everything visible and invisible. However John 1:3 says "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." The last part "that was made" suggests that not everything was made. Everything was made by God which was made. But somethings were not made but eternal, and self-existent and didn't require making. Either that, or the Bible is being terribly redundant.

Okay. So, where did this idea come from? This is really our own fault. This misunderstanding comes from a mistaken differentiation between intelligences and spirits. Abraham says in the Pearl of Great Price: " Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;" (Abr 3:22). Now some have taken this concept of intelligences and made a distinction between intelligence and spirit where no distinction is made. Some interpreted intelligence as some sort of eternal building block by which Eternal Parents reproduced and spirit-children were made using the same mechanisms as physical reproduction.
However, In my opinion, Abraham doesn't differentiate between spirit and intelligence and neither does Joseph Smith in the King Follett Discourse. Intelligence = Spirit, Spirit = Intelligence, and Spirit and Intelligence are co-eternal and co-existent with God. While God and exalted beings retain powers of literal physical reproduction, Christ is the only begotten of the Father and spirit children of God become like our Heavenly Father through the nurturing mechanism of eternal parenting.

While I am of the opinion that the scriptures do not differentiate between intelligence and spirit, however, there are some LDS quotes on this issue, there is an semi-authoritative quote which does make a distinction. Melvin J. Ballard is quoted as saying "In due time that intelligence was given a spirit body, becoming the spirit child of God the Eternal Father and his beloved companion, the Mother in Heaven. This spirit, inhabited by the eternal intelligence, took the form of its creators and is in their image" (Ballard, Melvin J. Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, comp. Bryant S. Hinckley, p. 140. Salt Lake City, 1949). So, it seems clear that Elder Ballard did make a distinction however there is no specific mention of mechanism by which raw intelligence was given a spirit body only that both the Eternal Father and the Mother in Heaven were involved. However, I am not sure where this quote comes from and when it was said, I am not aware of other recent quotes by the General Authorities on this issue.

Again, I object to is how some equate our doctrine with God telling Eve, " I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception." Whatever the mechanism involved with clothing self-existent intelligence with a spirit body, I am positive it is associated with a "fullness of joy" and not a "multiplicity of sorrow." I believe that the organization of the spirits of man was an act of generation and not just plain creation. I believe the process necessary for the organization of the spirits of man involved an act of generation and not just creation. Also, I do believe that Our Eternal Father is the Living God and the God of the Living and along with other resurrected, celestial beings, by definition, retains the sacred powers and abilities of both literal physical reproduction and literal spiritual pro-creation.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Children of the Promise

There are many who misunderstand and mis-characterize the LDS belief that man has an eternal and divine potential that than all men are considered spiritual offspring of God. Yes, it is clearly stated in LDS doctrine as well as the Bible that "ye are gods and all of you are children of the Most High God" (Ps 82:6 and John 10: 34). But being considered "gods" is way different that being "God." There is only One God and man will never take His place. So, what do LDS mean when they say men are "gods in embryo." What LDS are trying to convey is the Biblical differentiation between those who will be considered angels in the next life and those who will exist eternally and continue on under the classification of "gods."

The Bible is what teaches that Christ was exalted higher than the angels. It is the Bible that promises that those who accept Christ will be glorified together with Christ to be "heirs of god" (Rom. 8: 17, Gal. 4: 7, and Heb. 6: 17) and, like Christ, will also be made "more excellent" and "better than the angels" (Heb. 1: 4) The sanctifying ordinances that LDS do are given by God as part of the "everlasting covenant" that God would restore in Ezek 37:26 which is the same "sealing in the forehead" that John is talking about (Rev. 7: 3). Those who are made kings and priests unto God and who are "called, chosen, and faithful" according to Rev. 1: 6 and Rev. 17: 14 will through the merits, mercy, and power of Christ continue on in their eternal progression to continue to mature as gods in embryo which we are already (Ps. 82: 6 and John 10: 34).

Those who do not accept Christ in they way Christ has established will fall again from their potential and while they will be saved in heaven and may dwell with Christ and the Father for Eternity will be angels but be damned or their eternal progression will have an end. Those who, through Christ, overcome and maintain their eternal course, are and will be considered "gods." But this designation does not take the place of the Most High God. God the Father will remain our Only True and Living God forever and ever (1 Cor. 8: 6, Eph. 4: 5-6, Gal. 3: 20, 1 Tim. 2: 5 and James 2: 19). But we will be empowered as we mature to participate with God in His work of creation.

Whats with all this business about living on our own planets, eternal pregnancy etc, etc?

In the Book of Revelations, John sees the Earth in its final, purified, and Celestial state after the Millennial period . John describes the Earth as a "sea of glass"(Rev. 15: 2). We know from Christ that the "meek shall inherit the Earth" (Ps. 37: 11, Matt. 5: 5). Therefore, this Earth will be the eternal home to the faithful in Christ forever. So, I'm not sure where this living on our own planet idea comes from. Assisting God in creation I speculate that planet creation is part of that, but the Earth will be our eternal home.

What about marriage in Eternity?

Yes, "that which is sealed on Earth is sealed in Heaven" (Matt. 16: 19) " What God hath joined together let no man put asunder" (Matt. 19: 6). "Neither is man without the woman neither woman without the man in the Lord" (1 Cor. 11: 11). While the angels are not given in marriage in heaven (Matt. 22: 30). Man who are gods and children of God on the Earth are married while in mortality which stays in effect in the next life. This is the power of God that Pharisee was denying. The Pharisee was denying the sealing power and authority given to Peter (Matt. 16: 19 and Matt. 18: 18).

What about polygamy?

If 2 women agree to claim the same husband and the 1st wife agrees for her husband to be the husband of another wife, then there will be polygamy. But there is nothing in LDS doctrine which would force or coerce this situation. Marriage is required for the highest degree of salvation and exaltation but not polygamy. Polygamy was required of the early LDS but not of us today for a specific purpose then, but not today (Ex. 21: 10, Deut. 25: 5-10, 1 Tim. 5: 14-17).

On Earth men have greater power to choose their wife. But according to LDS doctrine, in the Millennium, women will have the greater power to select who they will claim as their eternal companion. There is nothing about eternal marriage that would force a woman to be with a man forever who has neglected or abused her in mortality. While the LDS and most Christians discourage divorce on Earth that does not mean the same rules will apply in the next life. If a man has "buried his talent" so-to-speak, that which has been given to him by God may be taken from him and given to someone else who has been more faithful (Matt. 25: 24-28). Of course, this would be up to the woman to decide and why LDS couples are encouraged to have their marriages "sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise" which means that both individuals feel the power and love of God in their marriage relationship both for God and for each other (Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). There is no coercion, force, or unrighteous dominion in the LDS marriage (D&C 121: 37-46).

What about pro-creation?

Part of the work of creation is the organization of spirits. LDS believe that spirits were organized before they were born and they then enter in and quicken the human embryo and fetus at conception and before delivery (Jer. 1: 5). But Joseph Smith taught that creation is not "from nothing" but it means organized or formed, and that the spirits of man have always existed (Col. 1: 16, Heb. 3: 4 and Rom. 9: 21). Therefore, there is nothing regarding uterine gestation and vaginal delivery that would be required for a resurrected, tangible being in "creating" or organizing an intangible spirit. If there were, that would one easy delivery.

Again, no-one will take God's place. And being considered children of god, gods in embryo, and having a divine and eternal potential just means that through Christ the faithful will participate with God in His work of creation (whatever that is). Some can try as they do to make that sound evil, wrong, and twisted. I would wish they would be more clear in how they communicate our beliefs.

Yes, we do believe that the Bible talks about men being considered "gods" "I have said ye are gods and all of you are children of the Most High God" (Ps. 82: 6 and John 10: 34). But that doesn't mean that we will become "God." While there is only One God. Men are considered gods (lowercase g), and will be made "better and more excellent than the angels."There will be different rewards to those who are saved in heaven (John 14: 2, 1 Cor. 15: 40-41).

Remember that all those who accept and believe in Christ become sons and daughters of Christ. But like Abraham's son's Isaiah and Ishmael, some of the saved will be considered children of the bond woman , and others will be children of the promise (everlasting covenant) (Gal. 4: 7 and Gal. 4: 31) . There will be those who are saved on God's left hand and those who will be saved and exalted at God's right hand (Matt. 25: 33-34). There will be those who will fall from their current state as "gods in embryo" and be saved in their sins and become angels to circle Gods throne. On Christ right hand there are those who through Christ are saved from their sins and will continue on to eternal progression to sit with Christ in His throne with Him and be glorified together as an heir to God and a joint-heir with Christ (Rev. 3: 21).

So, it is up to each of us to decide. While angels circle God's throne and worship Him with their mouths, gods will be empowered and enabled through Christ to sit with Christ (the King of kings, Lord of lords, and God of gods) in his throne with Him and worship Him through word and creative works (James 2:17-18). This Eternal Life and Exaltation and truely coming to know God because heirs of God will be empowered to participate in the kind of work God does (John 17: 3).

John 17: 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Mosiah 5: 13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

God Lives!

Many LDS Christians begin their testimony or witness of their faith by saying, "I know that God lives and Jesus is the Christ." So, what do we as LDS mean when we say "God Lives?" Additionally, the scriptures do not only teach that God is the "Only True and Existing God" but the "Only True and Living God." So, what do the scriptures mean by emphisize that God is living? Well, according to science, to be a living entity requires certain specific criteria, characteristics, and inherent abilities. There is some variability in definitions, but generally speaking the short list goes like this:

Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state. Also, the ability to resist entropy or the tendency for matter to seek a state of increasing disorder.
Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of synthesis than catabolism.
Response to stimuli: Interaction and response to its environment.
Reproduction: The ability to produce new organisms like itself.

So, according to the LDS understanding of the nature of God, God is alive. God exhibits spiritually analogous characteristics which satisfy the physical definitions as well.

Homeostasis: The scriptures teach that God exhibits the the characteristic of homeostasis because God is a God of order and is eternal and unchangeable in this sense.
Growth: The scriptures also teach that God exhibits the characteristic of growth because God is the creator and exhibits eternal progression. God is not a static being but dynamic and is unchangeable in the sense that He has never changed from His perfect course.
Response to stimuli: LDS scriptures also teach that God is able to respond to stimuli because God has a perfect and glorified body which is tangible.
Pro-creation: And the LDS know that God is all-powerful and has the ability to pro-create in that He can figuratively create spiritual offspring which can literally become like Him. In this sense the Bible refers to man as children of God and refers to God as Heavenly Father. Pro-creation as opposed to reproduction is achieved via the the mechanism of eternal parenting and does not refer to any physical mechanisms. Although the scriptures teach that God has the power and ability to both spiritually pro-create and literally physically reproduce as Jesus Christ is called the Only Begotten Son of the Father according to the flesh.

In conclusion, I would bare my witness that the God of the Universe Lives and exhibits all necessary spiritual characteristics of life, including homeostasis, growth, response to stimuli, and pro-creation.

The Infinite Worth of Souls

How is the understanding of some Evangelical Christians about the worth of a soul in the eyes of God any better than an abortionist or an evolutionist? I understand Christians are all about being humble and giving God all the glory. However, I think there is a disconnect between the Evangelical view of the worth and potential of the human soul in the eyes of God (through Christ) and what the Bible teaches as well as real-world application.

An abortionists considers a human embryo to be worthless as it is. A pro-life christian should consider the worth of a human embryo to be in its future potential. So, what is the future potential of a human soul through Christ? Is our future potential just to add one more angel to the heavenly choir to endlessly circle God's throne? Or, does the Bible promise more through Christ?

An human evolutionist considers man to be evolved from slime and to be an improbable mistake. Therefore it really doesn't matter what what we do on this Earth, because after we die, that's it. So, get what you can. The Christian creationist should understand that while man is nothing without Christ and that our bodies will return to the dust, that our immortal spirits are the spiritual offspring (Acts 17: 28-29)of God and we were created in the image of God and have a divine potential and destiny that is better and more excellent than the angels (Heb 1:4).

Acts 17: 28-29 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
Heb. 1: 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Jn 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Rom 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Gal 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Rev. 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Ps. 82: 6(John 10: 34) I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

It is the Bible which elevates man and says without Christ man is nothing, but with Christ man has infinite potential. And all glory be to the Father and the Son. It is the Bible which says that God is a God of gods, and King of kings, a Lord of lords. God wants man to realize our full potential through Christ. Doing so doesn't detract from the greatness and glory of God, but adds to it. Does, the success and achievement of your children detract from you? Or, does their success honor you. This is the meaning of scripture when God says, "This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:29)

According to the textual, biblical, and cultural context of scripture, God is a God of gods (Ps. 136:2), King of kings, Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16), Apostle of apostles (Heb. 3:1), Judge of judges (Ps. 82:1), Bishop of bishops, Shepherd of shepherds (1 Pet. 2:25), Holy of holies, and High Priest of high priests (Heb. 3:1); the Most High God, and the Most High Priest (Gen. 14:18-20, 22).

Therefore, it is the Bible which makes man kings and priests unto God for the glory of the Father and the Son. In Revelations, in preparation for the tribulation, while the Beast is marking his followers, John describes that God is busy "sealing his elect in their foreheads" (Rev. 7: 3) and says that the tribulation would have no power over them (Rev. 9: 4).

Rev. 1: 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev. 17: 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

So, it seems to me that the Bible speaks highly of the potential of the soul of man. These scriptures seem to support the LDS view that God desires, through Christ, to elevate man which adds to His glory and does not detract from His greatness, glory, or perfection. God is not a static being but dynamic and it is a manifestation of His power and glory that God can elevate the souls of man.

LDS believe that the souls of man are God's spirit offspring in a figurative sense that a glorified and tangible God would not need to use the mechanics of uterine gestation to organize an intangible spirit. Yet, LDS believe that the Bible refers to God as Father and man as His children in a literal sense that God can make us like Himself through Christ (Jn 3:2)(Matt. 5: 48).

If Evangelical Christians believe that God is all-powerful, why would they deny God the greatest power in the Universe; Pro-creation. Would evangelicals figuratively sterilize God in their concept of Him?Remember that the principle of pro-creation as well as marriage was given to Adam and Eve while in the Garden and before the Fall while they were yet in a state of innocence, and glory. Therefore this is further evidence that these principles are eternal and part of the nature of God.