Richard Alger

Personal Online Journal

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why do I Believe?

A Facebook conversation snippet I thought was worth saving.

Randy Galbraith:
After a careful consideration of the evidence, your conclusion is: "Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. He restored the true church of Jesus Christ. And he was faithful to the Lord throughout his life." But could not the same form of reasoning be applied to Wayne Bent? If not, why not?
Richard Alger:
I had not heard of Wayne Bent. I just looked up a bit of info from him. I believe that God, or the Universe or Good shows up in all places. In all religions, in those with no faith at all in Deity.  
President Hinckley said, “Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service” (meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 Feb. 1998, "Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley").

"whatever is true is a part of the gospel" ("My Father’s Formula",  Dr. Henry Eyring, Ensign, Oct 1978)  
"When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion." Abraham Lincoln

I have also found that the analogy of the word of God as a seed works well for me. I have found that the seed has swollen within me. It has sprouted and I have nurtured its growth for years. I have tasted of the fruit and I tastes good to me. It gives me life. (Alma 32:26-43
"O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good;" Verse 35 
I have seen in my life that as I have given it to Jesus, that I have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually. I have felt the beginnings of the fruits of the Spirit. (Moroni 7:45-48)
So, in my long winded answer to your question, "could not the same reasoning be applied to Wayne Bent?" It is possible that Wayne has truth and is leading his followers in Good. I have not looked into it. I believe that there are many, many manifestations of God's goodness and truth. I do not believe that Wayne restored the true church of Jesus Christ. 
I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only organization authorized to make binding covenants between God and humankind. That baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and other ordinances unlock a particular gift to us. To be faithful to what we are taught. That a weekly renewal of this covenant serves as a continual way to rededicate ourselves to what we believe is good and right. 
If we follow these patterns of God in our lives, the calculus 1 of good means that we eventually, through the grace of God, become even as God is. To live the kind of life He lives. That we can begin to receive the joy this kind of life brings starting today.
Why not? Because I feel such a manifestation of the Spirit as I live the gospel as restored in the LDS church. 
I have not found anywhere else teachings that expands my mind and helps me to reach to God. Doctrines like agency and our unique view of the choices of Adam and Eve. 
Our teachings of becoming like God (or theosis) is unique in its centrality of teaching.
The balanced view of justice and mercy that I have not seen in any other teaching. 
And I am sure I could go on. 
I have seen the goodness in my local leaders and members of my congregation. People that I admire and want to be more like. 
The opportunities that I have had to serve and by so doing, to become better than I would have. 
That is why, does that answer your questions, Randy Galbraith?
Randy Galbraith:
The reason that I asked, is because I believe the key point is commitment. Wayne Bent (modern living religious leader) and Joseph Smith (historical) present similar models and similar claims. Above is the quote: "I am not a committed Latter-day Saint in spite of my careful study of LDS history, but because of it." 
It is because of commitment that one does not easily discard beliefs at the first sign of trouble. Understanding this can help us understand folks in various faiths. 
In contrast neither you nor I have made commitments to Bent's group, thus it is relatively easy for us to dismiss his claims as not from God. The flip of this is such can generate a deeper/sympathetic view of former members of a faith. Former JWs (and likely former LDS members) don't give up their faith easily. 
The other area of thought I've been pursing lately is the differences between historical fact, claims made by a faith and personal belief and social interactions such creates
Richard Alger:
I don't doubt that my investment and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored in the LDS church makes it easy for me to remain associated with the church. And committed to it.  
This is human nature. I do not deny my bias.  
I have found it helpful to associate, especially online, with people that have a different point of view than I do. In politics, religion, in nationality. 
I find that their earnest dialog with me helps me to better understand my own views. I have discarded some of my beliefs that I have had as a child. and even as an earlier adult. I am under no allusion that I have the most complete and accurate understanding of how things really are and how they used to be and how they will yet be. 
It seems to be an attribute of this life that we cannot know, with surety the correct path to take. I believe this is by design. Just as with the traveling salesman problem, the best solution sometimes is to make our best approximation and then correct our path with repeated iteration. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Wilderness Disguised as Civilization

"The work that faces your generation is no less arduous [than the pioneers]. The deserts you must bring to blossom are no less arid, but your mission may demand even more of you, for unlike the early pioneers of this state you are confronted by a wilderness which is subtle and fluid and elusive. Indeed the wilderness which you must conquer is disguised as a civilization so that there is the double necessity to unmask the deceit, to distinguish between what is authentic and what is counterfeit, and to labor to support the one and oppose the other."

Discourse to BYU Students by Dr. John A. Howard, president of Rockford College, Illinois, as quoted by President N. Eldon Tanner, Oct 1976.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Perfecting the Church

I believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God. As Moroni said, "if there be faults they be the faults of a man." (Mor 8:17) I think that wrong practices and beliefs of humankind generally need to be removed in order to have a church that is acceptable to God.

I have found understanding and comfort in a passage in Jacob 5 that says,
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard. (Jac 5:65)
Part of receiving many great and important things, is pruning out the branches that produce bitter fruit. That the church collectively will be perfected even as we are individually. The scales will fall from our eyes and we will not longer see through a glass darkly.

We will see things as they really are. Until that day, we must forge forward, making the best approximation of what we understand God wants us to do. And then move forward trusting our connection with the Spirit to guide us, as well as our intellect to understand and do and be what God has in design for us.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Testimony Doctrine by Doctrine

A commenter mentioned how a testimony that is gained doctrine by doctrine is more resilient than
simply believing that “Joseph Smith was a legitimate [and by implication, righteous] prophet; ergo, the things he taught are all necessarily true”

This makes sense to me. I remember being taught that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. That if I gained a testimony of it, then I had a testimony of Joseph Smith and all the prophets that have come after him in the LDS church.

This approach to gaining a testimony worked very well for me. I remember teaching it often to others on my mission and elsewhere.

It seems that having a testimony teaching by teaching would hedge up a testimony in that, each teaching would have effort placed into it to understand it and why it is true and what it means to me as an individual. Instead of a monolith testimony, you can have a network of testimonies. Like the Internet, if a node goes out, the network does not fail. And it is possible for the node to get brighter again as we gain knowledge and inspiration or a change of perspective.

I have done this teaching my teaching method more rigorously since I have had my experience of being shocked by unsavory details of the church history. I feel more grounded and strong in my network of testimonies.

It is not that we don't teach this kind of testimony building. We often say how we gained our testimony of tithing, or the word of wisdom or of temples. Maybe we just need to extend that to all parts of the gospel.

Our leaders have often said that we need to find out about the truth of the restored gospel. It is time that we shore up our networks of testimonies for the time that they will be tested further than we can conceive now.

Testimonies grow (and diminish) gradually.
Let us acknowledge that most often gaining a testimony is not a task of a minute, an hour, or a day. It is not once and done. The process of gathering spiritual light is the quest of a lifetime.
If you seek God’s truth, that which now may appear dim, out of focus, and distant will gradually be revealed and clarified and become close to your heart by the light of God’s grace. Glorious spiritual vistas, unimaginable to the human eye, will be revealed to you. ("Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth", Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct 2014)
Do you recall the slow and almost imperceptible increase in light on the horizon? In contrast to turning on a light in a dark room, the light from the rising sun did not immediately burst forth. Rather, gradually and steadily the intensity of the light increased, and the darkness of night was replaced by the radiance of morning. Eventually, the sun did dawn over the skyline. But the visual evidence of the sun’s impending arrival was apparent hours before the sun actually appeared over the horizon. This experience was characterized by subtle and gradual discernment of light. 
From these two ordinary experiences with light, we can learn much about the spirit of revelation. ("The Spirit of Revelation", David A. Bednar, Apr 2011)

A Quiet Word

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder
'Til it was a battle cry
I'll come back when you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because everything's changing
Doesn't mean it's never been this way before
All you can do is try to know who your friends are
As you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light
You'll come back when it's over
No need to say goodbye
You'll come back when it's over
No need to say goodbye

Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can't feel it too
Doesn't mean that you have to forget
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes
You'll come back when they call you
No need to say goodbye
You'll come back when they call you
No need to say goodbye

This song filled my heart this morning. As I thought about the lyrics, I could tell what she was singing about.

"It started out as a feeling" I can imagine for someone, this is how it began. A feeling that there is more. More than this flesh and blood and life and death.

"Which then grew into a hope" Then it became a hope. That maybe it is true. That God exists and lives and is wonderfully loving and powerful.

"Which then turned into a quiet thought" This one way the Spirit speaks to me. It is a thought placed in my mind. A seed if not rejected, swells.

"Which then turned into a quiet word" What is that word? It is Christ! He is the One. He is the Word.

He loves us more than we are capable to love in return. He is willing to forgive us. He will bless us, sanctify us, if we are willing, to live with him again in a glorious kingdom.

We will become like him. Be one with him as he is one with the Father.

"I'll come back when you call me
No need to say goodbye"
He has conquered death. We will rise because of him never to be separated from our glorious, perfect bodies. We will see our loved ones again. We have the opportunity to live with them forever.

"Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet"
It is now the day after you first recognized the spirit testifying of the name of Jesus. You wonder if it was all real. You hope it was. You immediately get a confirmation that is was real. But your friends have forgotten.

"Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes"
Keep the faith. Grow it. Feed it. Let its roots go down to the living waters. Until you stand before Him in the flesh.

He will receive you. He will embrace you. He will continue to bless you to the extent that you are willing.

Let Go and Let God

The most important thing is for us to love God and love our neighbor.

We must plant and nurture faith in Christ, practice repentance and forgiveness, make and keep covenants with God, and learn joy in sustaining it.

The rest of it will work its way out. Just like Pres Hinckley would say.

Sometimes we can get hung up on a teaching that is hard to understand, or we can doubt that God's mercy applies to ourselves. We can let go and let God.

Let go of doctrines that don't make sense or are hurtful to us. We can let go of doubt and despair. If we let his love reach us, and change us with our consent and effort, every thing else will work out.

Let His Love Reach You

There is hope,
for every soul that's lost.
There is a way back home,
no matter where you've roamed.
His love will heal you, will lead you there.

There's a place for every heart in pain,
A place where there's not hurt,
And there's no shame,
Let His love reach you and teach you every hour.

"Let His Love Reach You/From God's Arms to My Arms to You", Michael McLean, One Heart in the Right Place, 1990, Grooveshark, Last FM)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Easily Bondable

Is is interesting that most compounds contain carbon. That is because its valences allow it to easily bond with a variety of elements.

Being able to bond with other things around you is valuable. Computers became exponentially more valuable once they were connected in networks. Synergy comes about because the interactions of people add up to a much greater value than the sum of their indivudual results. 

Maybe this is God's way of telling us that our greatest value comes from our bonds with those around us. This is an evidence to me of the teachings of family bonds, temple sealings, and other covenants with God that bind ourselves to Him. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Do you think I care for you so little?

I have been thinking of a recent episode of Doctor Who. This is where the Doctor shows how much he cares for Clara. She had betrayed him and he returns the favor by going to a very dangerous place to help her.

Clara: You're going to help me?
Doctor: Well why wouldn't I help you?
C: Because if what I just did. I just..
D: You betrayed me... You betrayed my trust. You betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything that I ever stood for. You let me down! ...
C: Then why are you helping me? ...
D: Why?    Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?
("Dark Water", Doctor Who (2005) S8e11)

I thought of my relationship with God. He loves me. The darkest, most secret parts. He knows me and as long as I continue to have faith in Him. Faith enough to follow His example. To continue to renew my covenants with him and incrementally strive towards Him. He in His infinite power reaches for me and lifts me to where He is. His light shines on me to warm and encourage me so that I, in his light, become like Him.