Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review of " Fire on the Horizon: A Mediation on the Endowment and Love of Atonement"

If there are two things all Latter-day Saints love, it is the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the temple. Whether young or old, these subjects often seem to be at the center of our discussion in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is as it should be; neither is truly complete without the other.

However, while we seem to love both of these subjects, we do not seem to know much about them, collectively or individually. This is not to say that we do not have good experiences with them, but we never seem to delve deep into what they are and how they relate to each other. This shouldn't surprise us to much; Latter-day Saints seem to love to avoid deep discussion.

But, as I said, these two things are inseparably connected. Yet no one up until now has written or talked about this idea at length. Enter Blake T. Ostler.

For those who unfamiliar with him, Ostler is an American philosopher and theologian. I consider him to be the most original writer in Mormonism to day; a true intellectual. He takes the scriptures to new heights.

In his book "Fire on the Horizon: A Mediation on the Endowment and Love of Atonement", Ostler shows our relationship to God in a way that few others have ever said. He defines our relationship with deity on a personal level that will take away the veil of fear of approaching the throne of grace.

However, his greatest work in the book has to do with how the endowment is truly our life in short form, and shows how we can each receive more from the temple than we are currently getting.

The only problem with Ostler's work (if any) is that he has not been a temple worker, so he can't shed light on that aspect. This would make his writing a little more personal. But besides that, I would highly recommend his work to anyone interested in the atonement and temple worship.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Most Important Part of the Temple Endowment

1 year ago today, the Lord Jesus Christ, acting through his servant President Robert F. Fillmore, laid his hands upon my head and set me apart as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple. Among other things that were said in the blessing, one that I remember was that I should prepare in every possible way to see the Savior, as he was often in the temple.

1 year has come and gone, and I have not yet had the opportunity to meet the Savior in the flesh. However, I have learned what I must do to see him. It is the entire purpose of the temple endowment: for a person, male or female, to learn the ways of the Lord and after proving worthy, to converse with him as a man converses with a friend.

The name of this post is called "The Most Important Part of the Temple Endowment" and it is this simple line that is spoken early on : "You must consider yourselves as if you were respectively Adam and Eve".

Often times people believe that the endowment is merely a re-enactment of what has gone on in a previous era, and is only incidentally related to us. While it is true it is a re-enactment of past events, it much more than that. The temple endowment is an enactment of your life and my life. Once we can comprehend this basic principle, then we are on the path to truly learn from the ceremony.

But how is the endowment your life? Simple. Before this world, along with others, you participated with your Heavenly Father and his beloved Son in the creation of the world. You came to this Earth ave forgotten all, and now are proving yourself worthy to return to your Father and to be as he is. Simply put, you are exactly the same as Adam and Eve.

The temple is the Lord's graduate course, and all graduate students know one thing: You never stop learning. In the Lord's house, it should be no different. And if you remember that you are as Adam and Eve, you will never leave the sanctuary without your vision extended and knowing what the goal is.

Your endowment is not complete until the Lord comes and personally visits you and instructs you.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Divine Gift of Gratitude

As we are all recovering from the horrific shock of the Los Angeles Lakers being the first team (but certainly not the last) eliminated from the NBA playoffs (tears), I would like to share a few words about something I have thought of often this week. What I speak of is Gratitude.

Last Friday, I received my first job. I now have the privilege of working at 1-800 Contacts as a Verification Specialist. It is a great company and offers great pay, especially for a college student trying to get his first degree. After receiving the job, my friend Reid e-mailed me to congratulate me on getting the position. He also offered some counsel, among which was the solemn truth that employment is a privilege not a right. He also counseled me to write a blog about gratitude.

I had planned to write about it last week, but decided instead to think about it a week and see how many things I was truly grateful for. Many came to mind, but I will only share a few of them here.

First and foremost, I am grateful for the life, mission, and atonement of Jesus of Nazareth. Without the knowledge I have of him and his work, life would be hollow, empty, and pointless. With the knowledge I have of him, life is enriching, fulfilling, and has deep purpose.

I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one thing to know that a man named Jesus of Nazareth existed; it is another to know that he lives today and has restored the fulness of his gospel through a modern-prophet. I have said Joseph is a man after my own heart, and I am grateful for all that he did.

I am grateful for my membership in the true church of Jesus Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Along with that, I am grateful for modern men who lead the church under hard circumstances to the best of their abilities. Though I do not agree with them all the time, I appreciate their work and commitment.

I am grateful for family, both blood and non-blood. I do not believe blood is always family. Family are those who love you unconditionally, love you for who you are, and are always there for you when you need help most. Many people, both related and non-related, fill that void. I am so grateful for them.

I am grateful and proud to be an American. Unlike our first lady, I have always been proud of this country and always will be. Yes, out country is not perfect and we have many problems that face us now and in the future. But, this land will always be my home and it will always be a land of liberty. God Bless America.

I am grateful for literature, which along with scripture sustains the mind and the soul. I am grateful for science and technology, which brings dream to reality. I am grateful for all the great writers and scientists, who have given us so much and whom we give so little credit.

I am grateful for good health, which has allowed to do all the things I have wanted to do at this point in my mortal probation.

Lastly, I am grateful for all the blessings that have come into my life, which are too many to count. If there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that I have been blessed far more than I should have been or deserved to be.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Silly Women

On March 6th, 2014, the New York Times published an article titled" From Mormon Women, a Flood of Requests and Questions on Their Role in the Church", written by Jodi Kantor and Laurin Goodstein. It brings up the more progressive Mormon women's viewpoint of them not being equal to men in that they cannot hold the priesthood, not being able to participate in priesthood ordinances, and that the men of the LDS Church live in the past and that they should not have to confess sins to Mormon Bishops.

Let's start off with the idea of whether or not men and women are equal in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the Book of Mormon, there is no such thing as inequality in the true church. The prophet Nephi said "he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." (2 Nephi 26:33)

However, we do not always keep up to our ideals and we as humans do discriminate, whether it be based on gender, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and so forth. However, the idea that women not holding the priesthood is not a form of discrimination that men have made, rather it is one that God himself has made.

Adam was given the first presidency (or the keys of the holy priesthood) in the beginning of the Earth, according to Joseph Smith. This has been the Lord's way always, and at no time in recorded scripture have women been ordained to the priesthood or held it. It seems that if the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever then they never will hold it.

It is interesting that only modern women seem to hold this view that they are being discriminated against. No woman of record in the scripture ever raises her voice in protest, and women certainly were not silent of there opinion in those times (Sarah, Sariah, Rebecca, Hagar to name a few).

It has been argued by the ordain women movement that Joseph Smith, Jr. planned to give the women the priesthood because he said at the formation of the Relief Society that he wanted to organize women after the order of the priesthood. This is a gross misinterpretation of what actually happened. First of all, Joseph never said that he would organize women after the order of the priesthood  Rather , what happened was that Eliza R. Snow and others came up with the idea of a female organization and drafted a constitution, presenting it to Joseph Smith. The Prophet looked over it and said it was the best constitution he had ever seen, but said that the women had to be organized "under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood" (Nauvoo Minutes). That is quite different than having the priesthood conferred upon you and ordained to an office. It meant that the women could not be organized correctly unless they followed priesthood direction, as they continue to be organized today.

Also, none of the women at the original relief society said anything to Brigham Young or other priesthood leaders about being ordained, and they certainly would have remembered if the Prophet Joseph had told them that was to take place. The only women who have raised complaint about it are the so called "LDS Feminists".

In the article the point is raised that a woman was unable to participate in the blessing of her child and that it "broke her heart". Considering women never have blessed children or been involved, I do not know why this would break her heart. It has been going on for a long time, and no one has raised a voice until now.

The silliest part of the article is that a woman claims to have confessed transgressions to her bishop, but was upset that he asked questions about the circumstances. Bishops are judges in Israel, and as such need facts to make a fair judgement. So, they will ask questions that in normal situations could come across as crossing boundaries. However, they must know all that happened so that a correct judgement can be reached, just like in a court of law. However, there are some questions which need not be asked, and those are the questions that have nothing to do with sin (such as leaders asking in the 70's and 80's whether married couples engaged in oral sex).

It should also be noted that all members know that leaders will ask searching questions when they conduct interviews, and if the leaders fail to do so then they are not serving the Saints correctly.

The real problem here is the feminist ideal will not work with the Lord's ideal because it seeks to go against his way and his statutes. The real need is not for women to be ordained, but fo the women seeking ordination to repent and get in line with their modern prophet and live the covenants they have made.

Their really are no arguments for women being ordained and I doubt that the minxes who run ordain women believe half of what they say. Rather, they just want attention. For all Latter-day Saints, the idea of changing the doctrine of priesthood ordination should be treated with ridicule, hostility, and contempt and those who favor otherwise (whether male or female) should read the scriptures carefully and confine their views to them.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Problem of Evil

One of the main arguments against belief in the existence of God is the so called "Problem of Evil".  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Problem of Evil is defined as : "The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable for anyone to believe in the existence of God."

For my non-philosophical readers, allow to break this down a little more neatly. The Problem of Evil is essentially the idea that if evil exists, it is highly unlikely that a God who loves and cares about humanity exists as well.

For the purposes of this article, I will be addressing the Problem of Evil as posed by my fellow philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.), known within philosophy as the "Epicurean Paradox". It goes thus: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? 

This paradox is so powerful, that even though it was given hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it is still heavily quoted within the atheistic and agnostic communities. Philosophers continue to wrestle with it even in modern times, most notably by the great philosopher David Hume in his classic work "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion."

This argument is interesting considering that Epicurus himself believed in God, but this argument gives countless others reason not to believe.

So, lets tackle the argument. First, "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?" Considering that the God of most of the main religions of the world (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is considered to be omnipotent (by definition meaning all powerful), this causes a real problem. How can this God allow evil among his fellow servants?

However, let me add a fourth religion to the fray: Mormonism. For the purposes of our argument, lets assume that Mormonism is true. Within Mormonism, God (who is an exalted man) is the father of all living. Before coming to this Earth, he created all humanity as spirits, and placed before them a plan known as the Plan of Salvation. This plan would allow the spirits that God created to inhabit the Earth, with the opportunity to progress to become as God is. However, in order to do so, the spirits would have to leave his presence for a time, forget having been in his presence in the first place, and being allowed to choose to follow truth when it was presented. Since untruth (or evil) must exist in order for truth (or goodness) to exist, evil was necessary in order for humans to become like God. So, God could have prevented evil, but he would have stopped progress at the same time.

Second "Is he able, but not willing?" I went over this in this previous point, but lets review it again. God allowed evil to exist so that people would have a choice to become like him. All human beings are endowed with the gift of Agency: which gives mankind the right to act for himself and not be acted upon. So, to some extent, God had to be willing to allow evil to exist, but that does not mean he cannot prevent it. However, if God were to shield humankind from all evil, he would be doing so at the cost of not allowing people to grow and exercise their agency. He therefore is not malevolent, because even those who fail in this life will still be rewarded for trying. God has malice toward none.

Third, "Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?" Simple. Evil comes from being in opposition to God, by following that being known as the Devil. Since God created the devil, he in a sense created evil. But he created evil in a way that a person would have to choose to do evil before evil would happen. The Devil has no power over man, except if they do his will. Hence, if one does the will of God, Satan will have no power over him. As long as humanity is in disobedience to God, there will always be evil. When mankind totally does the will of God, there will be no evil.

Finally, "Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" The truth is that if a person creates something, he is able to destroy it as well. So, God is both willing and able to destroy evil, but he cannot force mankind to be his slaves. He must allow them to act for themselves, because they have the power within themselves to destroy evil.

In truth I think the question that Epicurus should have asked was this: "Who is responsible for evil, Man or God?" Allow me to answer the question with other questions. Does God make people lie? Does he make people steal? Does he cause people to commit murder? Does he cause wars? Is he the author of child abuse? Or is humanity responsible for all those things?

The natural man is an enemy to God and seeks to blame Him for the problems he has caused himself. The Problem of Evil is indeed a true problem, but it not God's problem. It is our problem.