Monday, May 28, 2012

Saved By Grace After All We Can Do

2 Nephi 25:23 "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

Some of my Evangelical Christian friends criticize this verse in the Book of Mormon. They say that this verse is evidence that the Book of Mormon teaches a different Christ and a different gospel because "there is nothing good we can do without the grace of Jesus Christ." They rightly say, "man cannot contribute one iota to his own salvation on his own and by his own power".

While I agree with my Evangelical friends 100% that man has no power on his own to do good without Christ. I think their interpretation of Nephi's "after all we can do" is unfortunately taken out of context and misunderstood. Nephi is not saying man can meet God part way by our own power. What Nephi is explaining is why they (the Nephites) bothered to keep the Law of Moses despite knowing that salvation was in Christ Jesus and not by the Law. Nevertheless, Nephi taught that Christ gave the law, so they thought is imperative to observe the law first until it was fulfilled and Christ gave new commandments.

In other words, Nephi taught that we should 'accept and apply the grace Christ has already given us, before asking for more' or 'finish what's on our plate before asking for seconds'. To prove that this "finish whats on your plate' interpretation is exactly what Nephi means, I will turn to the letter of Captain Moroni to Chief Judge Pahoran who taught this very same principle:

Alma 60:21 "Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?"

Captain Moroni in a letter to Pahoran discusses the conditions of deliverance. In this letter Captain Moroni explains Gods expectation that his children receive and apply the grace we have already been given before expecting more. In this way the children of Christ grow "from grace to grace"

This principle is again taught at the close of the Book of Mormon by prophet-writer Moroni who promised the followers of Christ that if we would first apply all our God-given faculties (might, mind, and strength) to deny ourselves of sin, that then by the grace of Christ we would become fully sanctified through both the grave and power of His infinite atonement.

Moroni 10:32 "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God."

What sanctification and becoming "perfect in Christ" means is that, with Christ's help, we can first deny ourselves, put off the natural man, and keep the commandments of God over following after the appetites of the flesh. Then Christ promises that we will then go through the process of loosing any and all desire for sin but only desire to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2). Only then; in this forgiven, purified, and holy state will we then be prepared to enter in and dwell in the presence of our Father in Heaven.

When I was a child the Plan of Salvation was depicted as building a bridge over a deep chasm. Man standing on one side representing Earth and Christ standing on the other side representing Heaven. LDS do not teach that man can build any part of the bridge to Salvation. However, we must choose to stand upon and walk across the bridge. According to the Book of Mormon, Christ bridges our path to Salvation one plank at a time and will not extend the bridge until we are standing on the nearest plank. In this way, we are expected to use our God-given agency and accept the grace and choose the righteousness Christ has laid before us. And in this way, Christ walks with us every step of the way in our path to Salvation plank by plank spanning the chasm over death and hell towards Perfection and our Eternal Home.

So, what is "all we can do?" According to the Book of Mormon, all we can do is to "make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us". The means which the Lord has provided are the laws and ordinances of His Gospel which He has and will empower us to receive and obey. "After all we can do" is just another way of Christ saying, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Agency and Piano Lessons

Satan rebelled for the same reason we rebel: "he didn't want anyone telling him what to do". Satan's doctrine is "Do as you will" or as Korihor taught "whatever a man did was no sin but that a man fared according to the management of the creature". Living your life only the way you want = the sin of pride.

The truth of agency is like piano lessons. You can't just sit down at a piano and create music. Only through years of discipline and learning the rules of music are you free to create and fully express your individuality through music. Anything else is just banging on the keyboard.

Only by mastering the rules of music of both melody, harmony, dissonance, rhythm, tempo, etc can a person become free to act and to create. Doing whatever you want at the piano without the rules is not freedom. Without a mastery of the rules, there is no freedom to act, or to create music. Satan's version of freedom results in only disorder and noise.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Agency and Government

“As important as are all other principles of the gospel, it was the freedom issue which determined whether you received a body. To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the war in heaven meant eternal damnation. How then can Latter-day Saints expect to be on the wrong side in this life and escape the eternal consequences? The war in heaven is raging on earth today. The issues are the same: ‘Shall men be compelled to do what others claim is for their best welfare’ or will they heed the counsel of the prophet and preserve their freedom?” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1965.)

“In the war in heaven the devil advocated absolute eternal security at the sacrifice of our freedom. Although there is nothing more desirable to a Latter-day Saint than eternal security in God's presence…Today the devil as a wolf in a supposedly new suit of sheep's clothing is enticing some men, both in and out of the Church, to parrot his line by advocating planned government guaranteed security programs at the expense of our liberties. Latter-day Saints should be reminded how and why they voted as they did in heaven. If some have decided to change their vote they should repent—throw their support on the side of freedom—and cease promoting this subversion.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Secret Combinations, Conference Report, October 1961.)

"The first basic principle is agency. The central issue in the premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed him stood for the former proposition--freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter--coercion and force. The war that began in heaven over this issue is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer's primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments." (President Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Speeches of the Year, "The Principle of Agency" Sept 1986.)

Some people would use the quotes above to support the opinion that the righteous Government shouldn't prohibit drug distribution, prostitution, pornography, physician-assisted suicide. In these cases of sin, many claim sin is a matter of individual liberty, private contracts, and informed consent. However, when it came to the repeal of prohibition, Pres. Heber J. Grant instructed the LDS in Utah to uphold prohibition.

I have never felt so humiliated in my life over anything as that the State of Utah voted for the repeal of Prohibition.
(- President Heber J. Grant, Conference, Oct. 1934)

From this very stand he pleaded with us not to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He didn't speak as Heber J. Grant, the man, he spoke as the President of the Church and the representative of our Heavenly Father. And yet in a state where we could have retained what we had, there were enough Latter-day Saints . . . who paid no attention to what the Lord wanted . . .and what is the result? Such delinquency as we have never known. .
(- George Albert Smith, Conference, Oct 1943)

One of the saddest days in all of Utah's history was when the people, including the Latter-day Saints (for it could not have been done without them), rejected the counsel and urging of the Lord's prophet, Heber J. Grant, and repealed Prohibition long years ago--yet many of those voters had sung numerous times, "We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet."
(- The Teachings of Spencer. W. Kimball)

Is there a contradiction here? Not at all. Government shouldn't legislate what it thinks people should do. However, Pres. Benson said that it is the duty of government to protect the God-given rights of life, the free exercise of conscience, and control of property. In other words, the government can punish those who cause harm to others. The fear of punishment can server to dissuade against sin.

With our current over-interpretation of "rule of law" our government operates on the basis of "it's not illegal unless there is a specific law in the books that has been violated". This leads to unprincipled business exploiting loopholes and harming people and claiming "we didn't break the law". This in turns leads to the government imposing more and more complicated regulations to keep us safe.

However, when it comes to legalization of pot and prohibition, most don't realize prohibition did not make individual drinking of alcohol illegal. What prohibition did was make the distribution of beverage/recreational alcohol illegal.

The reason there is a Constitutional and moral basis to use the government to prohibit the distribution of recreational alcohol or other drugs is that recreational drug distribution is not simply a matter of contracts and informed consent. Recreational drug use is harmful, and the harmful use is specifically intended in the contract. The distributor cannot say, "I didn't know how the purchaser was going to use the product.". The reason the 18th Amendment prohibited "beverage alcohol" was because the recreation purpose of alcohol was tied to how it was prepared, packaged and consumed. Prohibition did not prohibit alcohol manufacture and distribution for the purposes as a disinfectant.

This applies to cannabis as well. Recreational cannabis abuse is tied to the smoking or eating the dried cannabis leaves. The prohibition principle would not apply to other preparations of cannabis that might have some other useful benefits. (e.g. Hemp rope, or Marinol pills for appetite, etc).

1. Prohibition (18th ammendment) only applied to recreational "beverage" alcohol "distribution"
2. Recreational use attatched to "beverage" form of manufacture
3. Recreational drug use = self abuse
4. Recreational drug Distrubution = accomplice to abuse
5. Recreational intent (abuse) is explicit in contract
6. Constitutional responsibility to stop abuse of others (victim)
7. Therefore, use of government force is constitutional to punish recreational drug distribution.(Kevorkian Principle)
8. (US Constitution Article 1 Section 8) in addition to providing for the "common Defence" by punishing federal harm-doers, the Federal Government (Congress) can protect via "regulation of Commerce with foreign nations". As part of the Constitutional power to "regulate" the Congress can "decide" what is "harmful" and what imports to regulate or prohibit.

Agency: Parable of the Piano Teacher

Agency is the power to act and not be acted upon. Humans are different than Animals. Animals are controlled by their appetites and instincts. Humans on the other hand can feel hungry but decide to fast, they can be offended but decide to forgive, and they can feel anger, but respond in kindness.

Without the commandments and Atonement of Jesus Christ man would be doomed to death, misery and captivity to Satan forever. However, the Book of Mormon teaches that thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ and His commandments, men have been empowered to choose life, happiness and freedom. Only through Christ can man can put off the natural man. Because of Christ men can "cheer up our hearts" because Christ makes us free to choose and gives us the choice. Death was the default setting.

The purpose of this life is like drivers lessons to learn how to have our spirits control and master our physical bodies. Instead, if we allow our passions control us, we are like an car out-of-control that can injure both ourselves and others. By choosing the right, we exercise and strengthen our agency and increase in power and freedom. However, by giving into our carnal natures, we limit and lose our agency and become enslaved to the insatiable appetites of the flesh. In this weakened state, Satan can easily enslave us. Satan cannot create so he can only enslave.

Why do people follow Satan? The Scriptures say Satan wanted to destroy the agency of man and promised that all would return with himself alone as God. Prophets have taught that Satan's plan was to force us to obey him (not force to be good). The Book of Mormon teaches that Satan persuadeth none to do good. Korihor taught how Satan was going to enslave us by getting rid of the rules. Korihor taught "whatever a man did was no sin but that all men faired according to the management of the creature and conquered according to his strength and genius."

Satan's lie is that if we follow him we can "do whatever we want". Satan says that "do as you will" is true freedom and that religion and the commandments of God serve only to restrict the freedom and enslave.

The truth is that without law a person "doing whatever they want" really don't have the power to do anything. Commandments are directions and not restrictions. If a man gives into the flesh, the flesh will control him and Satan will enslave him. Like playing the piano, you cannot create music if you don't learn and obey the rules of music. This applies to jazz as well. You just can't sit down at a piano, "do whatever you want" and have the power to create music. Only through obedience to Gods laws can we be empowered to create just like obeying the rules of music is required to create music.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Cheer Up Your Hearts

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."

Jacob tells us to "Cheer up" because we are free to choose life death. Therefore, some say we should be as grateful for the opportunity to choose death as we are the opportunity to choose life. Others say we should protect our rights to sin by decriminalizing and making sin legal and accessible.

If Satan was going to force us to be good. I guess we should be grateful for and protect the option to sin. However, the scriptures and prophets never specifically say that. What scriptures say is: 1. Satan sought to destroy the agency of man (get rid of rules per Korihor?) 2. Satan claimed he wouldn't lose anyone (false claim?). 3. Satan never persuades to do good (what about force?) (Moses 4). Prophets have said Satan wanted to force obedience, but they know obeying Satan is never good.

How did Satan seek to destroy agency. Maybe Satans plan was to throw out the rules and everyone live like savages (do as you will). There is no sin for animals following their instincts. They are just doing what animals do. Animals are predictable and thus easy to control and enslave. Maybe Satan's plan of force was really a plan of captivity.

Also, if Satan was to force us to be good, and Jacob says we should be equally "cheerful" about the choice of death as we are for life, shouldn't we be grateful for and protect the opportinity to sin?

I suppose, it all depends on what the default setting was. If good was the default setting, we should be grateful for sin. However, If death is the default setting, we should be grateful for the commandments and the atonement that allow us to escape death.

Which do you think was the default setting? Which new option should cause us to "cheer up".

Before the Fall, for Adam and Eve, Life in the garden was the default setting, and sin was the option that gave them a choice. So, I would say that Adam and Eve were thankful for the FALL. For us, after the Fall, death is the default choice. And commandments and the Atonement give us the choice and the "cheer".

When we properly exercise our agency and Satan is Forcibly bound in the Millennium, and our children grow up without sin unto salvation; will they be less free? Will they have less reason to be cheerful?

Someone balked when I said, " a free man doesn't exercise his agency by choosing sin". This person believed that choosing sin was still exercising agency. In my mind, exercise makes a muscle stronger. In my mind, you increase your agency by obedience and weaken it through sin.

Some say, "Satan's plan was to force us to obey". They then use this belief to say that a free society should protect our right to freely sin. However, when modern prophets warn against Socialism say, "Satan's plan is a plan of force to obey"; forcing to obey Satan is not forcing to do right. Doing Satan's will is always wrong.

Yes, I believe government shouldn't institute regulations to prevent sin, but that doesn't mean sin should be legal. When a person violates the liberties of or harms others, the perpetrator should be forcibly punished and the fear of punishment should be the deterrence. (Alma 1:17-18).

Accordingly, I also believe that the government should only intervene with force when there is a victim. So, like I said before, marajuana possession should not be criminalized, but drug Distrubution can be prosecuted. Recreational drug abuse is a lie, a fraud, and a theft of a "high" the person did not earn. It is self abuse that makes people weak and steals their motivation. However, recreational drug distributors become an accomplice to the self-abuse and can be prosecuted via the Kevorkian principle.

Criminalizing recreational drug distribution makes immoral consumption difficult. You can institute Constitutional/libertarian principles by criminalizing distribution and make access to sin difficult. A free society doesn't require free and equal access to sin. But if someone wants to sin bad enough, they are free to go out of
their way to do it. Why not make people go out of their way to sin?

If you're worried about the government deciding what is things are good to distribute and bad to distribute, the Book of Mormon instructs to decide by the "voice of the people". Then you might say the voice of the people spoke on repeal of prohibition. However, most people generally agreed in 1933 that recreational alcoholic beverage consumption was bad. However they were duped into thinking that "the law shouldn't criminize individuals for drinking". See, this confused the issue. Prohibition had nothing to do with individual consumption. Prohibition was about the criminalization of distribution only, which has both a moral and constitutional basis for its criminalization.

Satan always takes us to thd extremes as well. He will tell us we should have no rules, or too many rules. Understanding this we can see the proper balance between anarchy and tyranny in the true political spectrum.

When it comes to recreational drug use. Satan loves to confuse the issue. He likes to make many arguments that miss the Crux of the issue. But like Traditional Marriage, if you don't focus on and redirect to the core issue, you cant easily defend it.

Distracting Drug Arguments:
We can tax it (love hearing this from libertarians)
We can regulate it and make it safe
Marajuana isn't addictive or doesn't have harmful health effects
We can cut down on organized crime
Users don't hurt anyone else
Satan wanted to force
People should be free to due what they want
Marajuana has potential medical benifits
Private citizens should be free to contract

Real Issue:
Recreational Drug use is self-abusive and steals a 'high' they did not earn, therefore artifically stimulating your pleasure centers will rob you of your motivation for productive behavior. While individual rec. drug use should not be criminalized, recreational drug manufacture and Distrubution should be criminalized because explicit in the contract is the understanding that the product will be used for harm and abuse. Recreational drug distributors cannot claim they had no knowledge how the product was going to be used. If sold as a recreational product, it is sold for the express intent to be abused and cause harm by definition. Therefore, the government has the responsibility to use force to stop abuse and harm and protect. The fear of punishment should provide the deterrence.

If you read the text of the 18th Ammendment, it only applied to the manufacture and Distrubution of beverage (recreational) alcohol and not individual use. Knowing this we see that Pres Heber J Grant was perfectly constitutionally principled to ask LDS to oppose the repeal of prohibition.

Like alcohol, marijuana prohibition may require a similar strategy that the manufacture, import, export, distrubution and sale of "smoking" cannabis be prohibited. Like alcohol, the recreational use of cannabis is attatched to the way it is administered. If a cancer patient requires an appetite stimulant, the quality controlled thc cannabinoid can be isolated and administered in pill or suspension form "with wisdom and skill".