Posts Tagged ‘God’
I am strongly opposed to the idea of past lives or reincarnation. I have always considered it a false and pernicious doctrine that leads one to do less than their best in this life, thinking they will always have another chance to get it right in the next life. Some people have said that the church teaches this doctrine and that it is called Eternal Lives (plural). I disagree, believe that most LDS believe as I do, that Eternal Lives means eternal increase and would like to address that in this position paper.
Associated with Adam-God Theory
By way of background I’ve written a little about this before in an essay where I reviewed a book entitled “Teachings of The Doctrine of Eternal Lives.” For some reason, this subject seems to be related to discussions of the Adam-God theory, which I have also written about previously. My position hasn’t changed even though I’ve had many people engage me in private dialog on the subject. They come up with all kinds of weird spins on what we are taught in the temple.
Adam and Eve Immortal at Birth
I remained convinced that Adam was born an immortal child of God our father and his heavenly mother. Eve was also an immortal child of those same resurrected beings. Jesus Christ did not have a mortal experience until he was born unto Mary. What he put aside was not an immortal and exalted body but simply his status as the most intelligent and most advanced of all of Heavenly Father’s children.
No reintroduction of the Veil
I do not believe we have more than one opportunity to pass though mortality. The same applied to God and to Jesus Christ. There was no “reintroduction of the veil” to God, to Christ, to Adam or to any mortal being ever born on this earth. Elohim does indeed mean Gods – plural – which is in line with what I believe that many of us were Gods – and still are. The veil of our mortal bodies simply hides that fact from us for a season.
Definition of the Fathers
The Fathers, in my opinion, are those early patriarchal prophets who have been resurrected and await our joining them when we finish our mortal probation. We are to be like them and to be sealed unto them with the sealing power that can only come from the voice of the Lord. None of them has ever entered the womb again. That simply cannot and does not happen. They are resurrected and exalted beings now. We would do well to emulate their examples in following Christ.
God only Experienced Mortality Once
I do not believe Gods experience mortality more than once. I have re-read the accounts of the King Follett discourse several times. I simply do not see that Joseph taught that doctrine. Jesus helped to frame the worlds under the direction of our Father by virtue of his position as the most intelligent, the most obedient and the most advanced of all our Heavenly Father’s children. He was assisted by Michael, who was to become the first mortal of this earth – Adam.
No Immortal [Exalted Being] Can Become Mortal
I disagree that our Heavenly Father and Mother became mortal again after they were immortal [and exalted]. Sorry. That’s a false doctrine. Yes, it’s true that came to they earth and ate of the fruit of this world. Adam and Eve were born to them here upon this world as immortal beings, from immortal parents. Adam was created of the dust of this earth in the sense that his parents ate of the fruit of this world when he was conceived. They had already had countless spirit children, but Adam and Eve were the first immortal children they brought forth on this world. This was not the first time they had done this. They had brought forth immortal children on countless other worlds before this one.
Immortal Beings Bear Immortal Children
Again, there is never, was never, will never be a time when the veil is reintroduced to an immortal and exalted being. The mortal body is the veil. An immortal [exalted] being will not become a mortal being for any reason. Not even Jesus did this. Yes, he was a God before he was born because he had obtained all knowledge available to him before mortality. But he was not an exalted being. That requires immortality. Immortal beings cannot bring forth mortal children (*See excellent comment from Donald below). Adam and Eve were immortal [but not exalted] until they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then became mortal.
Update 4-10-13: I added the words in brackets above
No Past-Life Mortal Experiences
We establish ourselves as valiant in the pre-mortal life by our obedience to the commandments there and our faithfulness to the performance of assigned duty. There are no past-life mortal experiences to be remembered or relied upon as a source of growth or experience. Past-lives is a false doctrine explained by the presence of spirits who have attached themselves to us, which can be easily detected by those with spiritual insight or priesthood keys of discernment. This is clearly taught in books by Mel Fish and Doug Mendenhall.
Pre-Mortal Life is as a Spirit
Adam did not choose to become mortal again. He chose be born as an immortal child of Heavenly Parents and then chose to become mortal just as we are taught. I have never had a mortal life before my present time on earth. I learned and grew in a pre-mortal life in the presence of my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I am fairly certain I had some say about the timing of my birth into this world. Like Adam, I am searching for authorized messengers to teach me more. Up to this point I have accepted what I have been taught by prophets in scripture. But I know there is more that can only be received from heavenly messengers or from Christ.
We do not Cycle Through Mortality
I disagree with many on the interpretation of what Joseph taught in the last few months of his life and which Brigham tried to systematize in the endowment. I have studied many interpretations of others on what Joseph and Brigham taught. I have considered many versions of Adam-God theories from numerous individuals who have shared them with me. I simply have never found anything better than Elden Watson’s great summary. It is settled in my mind and has been for many years. I have yet to find anything that can convince me that we will ever become mortal again. That is not what eternal lives means.
Share Greater Light and Knowledge
This is my position paper. If I am wrong, show me where. Provide me with further light and knowledge. Point out my flaws in logic. Let me know where I have misunderstood prophets. I’ve shared this position many times over the years and most everyone has agreed that this is an orthodox understanding of what we as a church believe about the purpose of life and mortality. If you want to know more about the source of the idea of past-lives, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. Past-lives is not a doctrine that originated with God, but it can be explained. If you’re interested, I can add that in the comments.
All my life in the church I have heard the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are held out as motivating ideas that are intended to help us resist the pull and attraction of worldly pleasures. In this short essay, I would like to consider just one of those promises and the power for good that it should have in our lives.
Of course, the attraction of promises pre-supposes that you are the kind of person that is motivated by the “moving-toward” model. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it comes from the book Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins. He states, “All human behavior revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain.”
Tony’s shorthand for this is “pain or gain.” Which one drives you? Of course the concept is not original with Tony but he made it a focus of his seminars and books. The idea has been around forever and stated in different ways by various thinkers. The process is not absolute. We move toward some things and away from others.
However, most of us live our lives predominantly either moving toward a goal or moving away from an unpleasant situation, either past, present or future. You can easily determine your predominant model by describing something you desire. Do you express it in terms of what it is or what it isn’t, what you want or don’t want?
For example, think about and describe your ideal home or family. How about your ideal job? I was surprised to note that I described my ideal home in terms of what I want, but my ideal job in terms of what I don’t want. Maybe that’s because I am towards the end of my career and have seen plenty of negatives I want to avoid.
The greatest gift
What are the most important gospel promises that we should consider? Let’s start with the big one – eternal life. I’m not talking about being resurrected; that’s a given and a free gift from the Savior as part of the gospel plan. I’m talking about being able to live the kind of life that God lives, with complete joy and fulfillment.
In modern revelation it is recorded that “there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6:13) We are also told that “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7) Salvation in the fullest sense is defined as eternal life.
So just what is eternal life and how can we relate to it since we have nothing to which we can compare it in this life? In order for something to be desirable and worthy of sacrifice, we must have at least some sense of its attractiveness. In fact, it is up to the Lord to make us fully aware of what really comprises eternal life.
Salvation without exaltation
In the LDS Church, we commonly refer to exaltation as the kind of life that God lives, and consider it to be synonymous with eternal life. We also consider it to be the fullness of salvation. If we want to get a little more precise, let’s consider one common aphorism used to describe it: “Salvation without exaltation is damnation.”
This is a saying that engenders intense debate even among LDS scholars because I have read it online many times over the years. I agree with that adage because for me, it appeals to my predominant “moving away from” model. Yes, I confess that I am more inclined to make life choices in order to avoid unpleasant possibilities.
I consider the moving-away from model of thinking to be very mortal; not weak, just mortal. But I’m grateful to know that the Lord is fully aware of this approach. This is evidenced by the twofold promise of the Book of Mormon: If you keep the commandments of God you will be blessed. If you don’t, then you will be cursed.
Yes, tell me more about the negatives of a behavior and I will do my best to avoid it because I can see the results such behavior has produced in others. The only way I am motivated by a promise of eventual reward is if I have experienced something similar, even if it is in a small degree. My mortal mind doesn’t “get” eternal life.
Yet, in my heart I know that there is life after death. I have had too many personal evidences presented for my consideration to feel otherwise. I am satisfied that the concept of a spirit world is real; that there are unseen beings operating in a plane of existence just outside my mortal perception; and many times acting on my behalf.
Learning from opposition
So how does the Lord reach people like me who need a more solid understanding of eternal life in order to be motivated by the promise? I guess I’m kind of like the child that hears from a parent, “if you work hard in school, you’ll have an easier life when you get older.” It’s true, but it didn’t work for me when I was a child.
An easy life to a child is loving acceptance, lots of playtime, a warm, comfortable home, lots of food to eat and that safe, secure feeling that comes from knowing that dangers are far, far away, or even better, being oblivious to the concept of danger. But such a life doesn’t work as we get older because we experience opposition.
And that’s why I am more motivated by an understanding of what eternal life will not be like. I have experienced opposition, adversity, setbacks, disappointments and many painful shocks brought on by unforeseen and unwanted reality checks. Because of these experiences, I know what I don’t want eternal life to be like.
Of course, I don’t set the rules when it comes to my quality of life after death. But I do “get” the idea that I can determine a large part of that life quality by what I do or don’t do and how I respond to the life choices that are presented to me. There really is a lot of truth to the idea that a man is about as happy as he decides to be.
Disappointments will cease
I don’t want eternal life to be disappointing. I don’t think God is disappointed. Even though we believe that his most important work is us, his children, I don’t think he is ever really disappointed in us. I also don’t believe that his plans for us are ever really frustrated. We will get out of this life what we came here to get.
What we came here to receive is an understanding and appreciation for eternal life – the kind of life that God lives – that we never could have accomplished without experiencing opposition, adversity, disappointment, trail, heartache, frustration and pain. So whatever the outcome of our lives, we will appreciate eternal life better.
That appreciation comes by application of the “moving away from” model of life. Although we may not understand all the promises of peace, happiness, freedom, personal power, contentment and joy that are held out to us, we now know what we don’t want eternal life to be like. We don’t want it to be like our life here on earth.
Yes, I have experienced happiness in this life. I have experienced success, some personal power, a measure of peace, plenty of freedom and lots of growth. But even in achieving these things, I immediately realized that they were temporary and not complete. They do not last because of the transient nature of mortality.
Moving away from pain
Do you see? I now understand something about eternal life that I never could have fathomed before and something that I don’t want. I don’t want good things to end as they do in this life. I work long and hard to create my home and family life that I do not want to see come to an end. I don’t want that work to be wasted or to fail.
So for me, moving toward gospel promises is meaningless unless I have something concrete to compare them to. I am motivated to move away from something that I don’t want. I don’t want sickness, physical pain and death; therefore I am attracted by the promise of a resurrection, which becomes more attractive the older I get.
I don’t want to be disappointed in myself in the life to come. Carol has a way of expressing this that I find memorable. She says, “Do you think God will take away the memory of being married to someone if you don’t live worthy of them?” How tortuous that would be to see your mortal spouse and not be able to be with them!
So for me, gospel promises are more motivating when I think about what I might lose as opposed to what I might gain. I don’t want to lose things that I have been given or have earned. Yes, I believe we must earn or qualify for some blessings in the life to come. Eternal life is a gift, but we must meet the requirements for it.
I’ll bet there are at least a half dozen theological ideas expressed in this essay with which non-LDS readers will disagree. In fact, I’m certain that many of my LDS readers will also take exception to some of my statements. That’s OK. I welcome the dialog and hope that maybe something I have expressed has been helpful.
I love the Lord’s promises but I confess that I just don’t get some of them because of my weak, limited mortal way of seeing things. I believe the promises and am certain that they will mean a lot more when I get to the spirit world. Today, I just want to keep the good things I have gained from my experience with opposition.
Earlier in this essay I wrote that since we have no real concept of eternal life, it is God’s responsibility to make it appear attractive to us. I mean that. But how he does that may be different for each one of us. In my case, I am enticed by the spirit whispering to me that in the next life, I will no longer have to endure temptation.
I love that promise.
On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org. There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.
01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?
Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer. We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work. We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help. We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service. It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.
02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?
The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another. I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not. It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that. To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first. He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.
03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.
Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is. Think about it! Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday. It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God. I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.
04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.
I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man. He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed. But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come. I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.
05. Why do Mormons go on missions?
I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries. As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries. It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism. I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.
06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?
Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives. I am a product of all those who came before me. My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover. Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation. We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).
07. How has attending Church services helped you?
One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday. I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings. I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior. I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week. That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week. I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.
08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?
Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry. I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure. So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members. I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most. We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.
09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?
Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding. Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control. We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material. So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!” It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content. We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.
10. Could you talk about your baptism?
I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago. My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance. I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission. My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost. I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood. I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back. I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance. It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.
11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?
I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior. I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others. I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way. I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion. I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too. Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger. I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life. The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.
12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?
When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity. Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations. When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift. The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices. Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes. The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.
13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?
There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two. Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife. After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy. I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there. One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me. I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family. I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers. I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later. The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.
14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?
My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual. I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life. But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family. We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals. For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active. We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community. The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.
15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?
Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world. Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary. I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come. Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things. Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be. The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.
16. What is hope and what do you hope for?
Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life. Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow. I hope for a glorious resurrection. I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life. Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here. This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.
17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?
In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life. Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is. One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8). In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted. Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy. The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream. What a great story!
18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?
I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life. There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift. The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life. The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places. The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered. The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain. The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.
19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?
It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life. For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting. But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good. The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him. And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better. It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.” I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.
20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?
One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved. We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us. Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes. Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do. We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.
21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?
Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome. For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment. In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak. We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come. We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.
22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life. Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent). But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member. Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors. When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.
23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?
A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer. I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers. And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself. My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit. The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer. I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.
24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?
I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old. I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher. Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon. I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together. I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it. In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family. No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed. The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God. It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us. The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.
25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?
Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints. Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy. We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church. In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do. I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis. These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.
I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here” (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen. Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU. The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.
After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe. There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone. Galaxies like ours exist in the billions. We are not the only life in this universe.
People on other worlds
Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us. Or do we? Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds. In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.
Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space? How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings? I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride. After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time. No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet. Their method of travel is currently beyond us.
Prophets taught of other worlds
Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds. He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.” Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:
The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.” Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…” Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.
God created countless worlds
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” What an amazing testimony! But wait, there’s more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” Now that is deep doctrine!
Purpose of all these worlds
We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now. We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God. We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it. But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept. President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.
Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created. The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven. Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son. We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.
Believed but not taught
I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church. There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders. And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter. However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs. A favorite hymn contains these words:
“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”
We are Gods in embryo
We are of the race of Gods. We are of his species. God looks likes us. We look like him. He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.” We are his sons and daughters and he loves us. The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me. There are no green, bug-eyed monsters. They are also of the race of Gods.
The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence. Like us, some are passing through a temporal period. Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory. This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever. I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true. You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.
Space travel to the earth
Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth? Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer. Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth! They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years. God and angels visited Adam. They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people. It is quite common!
In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836. In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited. When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.” Awesome!
Communication from space
Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life. On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication. This is more than a future possibility. It is a present fact! Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.
They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence. These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom. But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say. Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.
They are coming to visit us
What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon. The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs. “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period. They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”
But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens. They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality. What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided. First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden. Don’t believe it? Look it up in our history!
Summary and conclusion
The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years. They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits. They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend. These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character. They love us. We are their children and their brethren. They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.
Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred. The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us. These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them. One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man. Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.
In our last Institute class we learned about the reality of Satan and the evil spirits in the world around us. That was Moses chapters four and five. In tonight’s class we covered Moses chapter six in which we learned about the priesthood, the prophet Enoch and the Plan of Salvation. In this essay, I would like to focus on one single verse which teaches us so very much about God.
57 Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must arepent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no bunclean thing can dwell there, or cdwell in his dpresence; for, in the language of Adam, eMan of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the fSon of Man, even gJesus Christ, a righteous hJudge, who shall come in the meridian of time.
If we all spoke the Adamic language, when we called upon God in prayer, there would be no confusion about who it is that we are addressing. Man of Holiness is his name. That phrase tells us succinctly that God is a man, albeit a perfect and holy man. He is a glorified and exalted man. He looks like us. We look like him. He was once a man like us. He passed through a mortal life.
God is an exalted man
Joseph produced chapter six of Moses in November and December of 1830. This was after the Book of Mormon had been translated and published. This was after the organization of the church. Joseph was living in Fayette, New York. Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge had just been converted. Sections 35 and 36 of the Doctrine and Covenants were received for them.
Thus we see that the phrase “Man of Holiness” was known to Joseph early in his work. The knowledge of that phrase includes an understanding of the exalted nature of God and that he was once a mortal man. Joseph’s understanding of this doctrine was not something that needed the King Follett discourse in 1844. That was when he taught it clearly to the assembled saints:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,–I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him in the form of a man–like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man…He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did.”
Witnesses of other prophets
Brigham Young taught (JD19:64), “Our Father in heaven is a personage of tabernacle, just as much as I am who stand before you today, and he has all the parts and passions of a perfect man, and his body is composed of flesh and bones, but not of blood.” This was also taught clearly by Joseph Smith in D&C 130:22 – “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.”
Orson Hyde said (JD1:123), “Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is.” God our Father in heaven, passed through a mortal experience just as we are doing.
President Lorenzo Snow coined the famous couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God is, man may become. We are the offspring of God, begotten by Him in the spirit world, where we partook of His nature as children here partake of the likeness of their parents. Our trials and sufferings give us experience, and establish within us principles of godliness.” (JD 26:368)
Was God once a sinner?
Theologian W. John Walsh explained, “The critics argue that since we believe sinful men can become gods, it is a natural conclusion to say that our God was once a sinful man. However, they conveniently twist our theology to meet their reasoning. Their reasoning presupposes that when faithful Latter-day Saints become ‘gods, even the sons of God’ (D&C 76:58), they become beings equal and independent of our Heavenly Father. However, this is incorrect.
“While we believe that the faithful will enjoy a life similar to our Heavenly Father, we also believe we will still be subject to and worship the God of Heaven, which is represented as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We will never be at the same level as them or stop worshipping them, but we will be like them and enjoy a quality of life similar to theirs.”
“In no place does the Prophet Joseph argue that our Father in Heaven ever sinned. He simply says that since Adam had a body fashioned after the image of God, then God’s body must be like Adam’s or his descendants (us). Likewise, he says that our Heavenly Father once ‘dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.’” We do not teach that God was ever a sinner.
Summary and conclusion
When Joseph Smith went into the grove to pray on that spring morning in 1820, he declared that he saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Critics and historians have argued that he did not make that distinction clear for many years. I have written previously about the multiple versions of the First Vision. I concluded that I found no discrepancy in their content.
Did Joseph teach from the beginning that God was once a man and that he passed through a mortal existence the same as we are doing? I don’t know how early he taught this truth, but it is evident from his translation of Moses chapter six in December of 1830 that he was familiar with the phrase, “Man of Holiness” and all that implied. Joseph knew then that God was once mortal.
I learned these truths as a child and have taught them all my life. This knowledge of His true character enables me to exercise greater faith in God. Joseph told the truth about what he said he saw and I believe him when he taught that God was once a man. I also believe than man can become like God and achieve exaltation, but that’s a subject for an essay at some other time.
In my Easter post, I addressed the oft-asked question, “Are Mormons Christian?” I shared my witness of Jesus Christ and included a video clip from an apostle that summarized the answer. An anonymous reader left a comment disagreeing with my declaration that Mormons are indeed Christians. He kindly shared a list of six points with which he disagreed.
I responded briefly to our anonymous friend and promised to reply in greater detail to each of the points he raised. This post addresses the first point that God is a glorified being of flesh and bones. A Google search on the subject reveals several well written articles. An equally useful search on the phrase “Does God Have a Body?” delivers some of the same results and many others.
I am not a Mormon apologist nor am I experienced in apologetics. I am just your basic member of the church. My family joined when I was very young, converting from Presbyterianism. I served a mission, was married in the Temple and have been attending church all my life. I think my religious experiences are typical of a Latter-day Saint living in Southern California.
My personal views on the nature of God
I have never had a problem with the doctrine taught that God is a glorified man and that he has a body of flesh and bones. I know some object to the idea that God was once a mortal man but it has always made sense to me. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the universe. For example, who was taking care of things when God was going through his mortal probation?
There are a lot of questions about God that I just put up on the shelf until some future time when I trust that they will be answered. Some get confused when others talk or write about God’s father and the whole idea of eternal progression. I know some things have been taught and revealed about that subject, but frankly, I don’t think about it much. It doesn’t bother me.
I have been taught and believe that the purpose of this life is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and prove myself obedient to His commandments revealed in scripture, both ancient and modern. I am a very simple man, really, but it makes me happy to think of a loving Heavenly Father who understands me perfectly because He has gone through the same kind of mortal experience.
Official statements from the Church
From Mormon.org: “God is your Father in Heaven (Matthew 6:9). We call God Heavenly Father because He is the Father of our spirits and we are created in His image ( Genesis 1:27). God has a body that looks like yours, though His body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory beyond description. He knows you personally and loves you more than you can comprehend.”
From True to the Faith: “God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things. He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He ‘has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’ (D&C 130:22). Our Heavenly Father is a God of judgment and strength and knowledge and power, but He is also a God of perfect mercy, kindness, and charity.”
From Preach My Gospel: “God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.”
Summary and Conclusion
I know this is not a deep discussion on the subject of the nature of God. There are so many more ideas that could be addressed. This post focused on one idea: God has a body of flesh and bone. Note that we do not teach that God has a body of flesh and blood as that is a condition of mortality. God is a glorified, immortal, perfected being and we are made in His image.
It is not a hard doctrine to comprehend. Man has made it difficult through uninspired creeds and interpretations of scripture that are not correct. That is why we need Apostles and Prophets to help us come to the unity of faith. I am so grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who bore a plain a simple testimony that he saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
So is this different from what the Christian world teaches? Yes, it is. We believe in a “Restored Christianity.” Any doctrinal disagreements we have with ministers of other faiths can be summarized in one statement: We do not rely solely on the Bible for our understanding of the nature of God. Our understanding is based on knowledge revealed through modern prophets.
An AP writer wrote a great article on the church today. If Mitt Romney has done nothing else, he sure has focused attention on the LDS church. In the past I have sometimes been outraged by the poor reporting the church has received. Articles have been full of misconceptions, stereotypes and outright falsehoods.
For the most part, the press coverage on the church during this campaign has been favorable. This article is a good example. For example, Jennifer Dobner, the AP writer, quotes Richard Mouw, head of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena CA: “Mormons believe that God and humans are of the same species. In our eyes they have tried to bridge that gap in ways that really is a fundamental violation.”
What a great quote that invites discussion. What is the ‘fundamental violation’ to which Mr Mouw is referring? A violation of what – somebody’s idea of God? Surely not the Bible’s. God is our Father in Heaven. He is the Father of our spirits. That means we are the ‘same species.’ What’s so hard about that? We are his spirit children and children grow up to be like their parents – but that’s a discussion for a different day.
The Savior made that clear so often as he taught. So did Paul in Hebrews 12:9: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” And Malachi 2:10: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?”
No wonder this is such a favorable article. Jennifer Dobner is an employee of The Deseret News which is owned by the LDS Church. That’s OK. The article still invites discussion because of the great quotes from others who do not share some of our doctrinal viewpoints. For example, she quotes Randall Balmar, professor of religion at Columbia University.
Referring to the Book of Mormon he said, “Here you’ve got an additional testament of Jesus Christ and a source of continuing, authoritative revelation. It simply rubs evangelicals the wrong way.” Yep, the Book of Mormon sure sets us apart from most other Christian religions. But it sure is good evidence that speaks for itself. I like the fact that he referred to it as ‘an additional testament of Jesus Christ.”
I assume the ‘source of continuing authoritative revelation’ he is referring to is modern-day prophets and apostles who speak for the Lord by virtue of the priesthood and their callings. That’s a great place to lead a discussion because that is also a major difference between the LDS Church and all others. We have the apostles and prophets who claim authority from God to speak in His name.
These are bold declarations. I wonder how much Mitt will touch on in his speech tomorrow. It will probably contain very little doctrine and focus more on the role of religion in guiding the candidate and potential future president of the United States. To quote Richard Mouw again, “a lot of people worry that a church with a very strong authority center could influence a public leader by suddenly getting a new revelation that has an impact on public policy.”
What do you think? What are the chances of ‘new revelation’ impacting public policy?