Personal Online Journal

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy

It is aha moments like I found reading this comment by Seth R. that I love the bloggernacle, and evangelical-mormon blogs.

I think the reason for the “it’s not doctrine” line is that you’ve got Mormons who spend a lot of time wrestling with the formalized theology and dealing with its criticisms. Then you have all the other everyday church-going Mormons who don’t go in much for theological inquiry and frankly, don’t care much. The latter are far and away the majority in the LDS Church, and in most any other church, I would argue.

The question is how you deal with that divide.

In Protestantism, which emphasizes orthodoxy first and foremost, the solution is to put the thinking class in the leadership posts and charge them with bringing everyone else up to speed theologically.

In Mormonism, which de-emphasizes orthodoxy and instead pushes orthopraxy (”right practice”), the solution is to place the academically average LDS member in positions of leadership – even all the way to the top. The theologians are not put in charge, but are rather shunted off to a limited corner of Mormon life. A Mormon will typically almost always emphasize personal spiritual life over theological training as desirable qualities in a minister.

I think this approach is probably the main reason that Mormons can be so careless and unconcerned about the philosophical integrity of their religion. It’s also why it’s taking so freaking long to get Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph F. Smith out of our system, and why it took so long to get Brigham Young out of the system earlier.

You get someone with a strong vision of Mormonism, like those men, and if it’s serviceable in the day-to-day worship life of the average LDS, the thinking is – why not use them? Even when the theologically trained Mormons point out some problems with the paradigm, it still remains useful for most Mormons, and there just isn’t much sense of urgency about changing it. After all, the main concern is with ethical and spiritual living. Debatably, you don’t need a perfect theology for that.

Mormon theologians, on the other hand, recognize this emphasis within Mormon life and they don’t want to “kick over the beehive” just to make an esoteric theological argument. Building Zion comes first for Mormons – whether you are theologically minded or not. We’re not going to sabotage that just to score theological points.

I had never heard of Orthopraxy before. I also believe that "right practice" is much more important than having the "right opinion". I include in right practice my belief that Jesus Christ is my savior.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On the Impossibility of Genuine Self-interest

I just read "On the Impossibility of Genuine Self-interest" by Jeffrey Thayne. Years ago, I attended some seminars based on the work of Terry Warner. While and after I attended, I read a manuscript of Bonds That Make Us Free. About a year ago read Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged makes some compelling arguments for objectivism. Jeffrey Thayne makes a more compelling argument for altruism. I particularly like how he describes our moral decisions as either an expression of love or malice, "altruism is not disguised self-interest. Rather, self-interest is disguised malice."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Give the horse the reins, and he will get you to camp.”

Elder F. Michael Watson spoke in the April 2009 General Conference on "His Servants, the Prophets". It is telling that he has served as assistant secretary or secretary to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency from 1970 until 2008 when he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

This quote has more meaning when considering his first hand experience over the last 39 years.
During my growing-up years in the small farming community of Spring City, Utah, an opportunity afforded itself each summer to be with my father alone for two weeks herding sheep in the mountain range of the Manti-La Sal. On one occasion the fog rested heavily in the area to the extent that you could not see your outstretched hand in front of you, and the evening was drawing nigh.
My father suggested that I return to camp, and he would soon follow. I remember questioning how I would be able to find the camp amidst the fog. My father simply said to me, “Give the horse the reins, and he will get you to camp.” Following this counsel, I loosened my grip on the reins, and with encouragement to the horse, the journey began. At times I would be struck in the face by a low-hanging limb I couldn’t see or have my leg brush close to a tree. Eventually, the horse came to a complete stop, and the silhouette of the camp was in view.
Sometimes we may not always be able to immediately find the desired way before us, but the wisdom of those who have gone before, coupled with the wisdom of those who are with us still, will be our guide if we let them have the reins.
This also stood out to me.
Prior to his passing in December 1973, President Lee, speaking to an assembled group of Church employees and their families, posed the question after giving a history of the Church’s welfare program: “Do you believe these prophets knew what they were talking about?” Later in the same address, concerning the Brethren’s counsel to guard against the permissiveness invading the home through inappropriate literature and television, he asked, “Are you too close to the Brethren [so that you] think of them not as prophets but as men just guessing [such counsel] might be a good thing?”

Friday, July 17, 2009


The comment thread of Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2 has prompted me to express what I believe exaltation to mean. Clean Cut commented
I believe in deification and becoming a god; sharing in God’s divine nature is fully scriptural. But I do not believe in being an independent God (as if we’ll become our own Godhead to other planets), and I don’t find scriptural support for it nor any evidence for it in the teachings of Joseph Smith. However we end up sharing in God’s power, it will be an extension of His power–”joint heirs”–not our own.
Until recently, I was not aware of this belief within orthodox LDS faith. It does not fit with what I see is taught in our scriptures.

In the oath and covenant of the priesthood it says, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." (D&C 84:38) If I receive all that my Father has, wouldn't that also include being able to create what he has created?

D&C 132:20 says,
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
To be from everlasting to everlasting seems the same as being Eternal like God is. To have all power seems pretty clear.

Clear Cut summarized himself, "I do not believe I will become a “worshiped” God. Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son."

This reminds me of the time when Jesus was called Good Master and he replied, "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark 10:18) We will defer honor to God the same way Jesus did. Any honor or power the Lord gives to us will only be because of the grace of God, because of the atonement. Any worship we may receive eventually will only serve to increase the glory and honor of God.

I have progressed spiritually very much in the last 14 years because I of my marriage to a kind, forgiving and persistent wife. She has helped me to repent and grow. I have thought about how is it that I can really become like Jesus is, to be perfect as He is. Perhaps our relationships with others who are also increasing in faith and honor of their covenants will help us to reach what God wants us to have. D&C 88:133 is a passage I have often been drawn to.
Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
What if we actually kept a covenant like this? As we grow in our faith and obedience to the Lord we will be able to.

Now I go on to my own thought. What if God's power comes from a covenant He has with other perfect beings? He is perfectly supported by those around Him. He perfectly supports the others in the covenant. Maybe God is preparing us to become part of this covenant that is perfectly kept and allows those who have grown to be able and willing to also keep this covenant perfectly.

Does this mean that all in this covenant are equal? I will always acknowledge where my strength comes from. It is only through His grace that I able to continue to work out my salvation. Any honor I receive will be given from Him and to His greater glory. Mathematics are different when you deal in the infinite. Even if the Lord gives us an infinite amount of power and authority and ability, it does not take away from His. Since anything we have we get from Him, it actually increases His dominion and power and glory.

Update 2009-07-19

I am putting some more comments from the original post for my own reference. Eric Nielson commented (#20),

Clean Cut:

For starters, I do not believe that God institutes the laws. These laws are eternal and must be obeyed, even by God.

Further, some questions:

What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?
What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?
Do you believe that exlted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?

If so, do you believe the relationship between such spirit children and spirit parents would be the same relationship between us and our spirit parents? And if so, what does this have to do with gods and Gods?

Clean Cut responded (46),

Eric (#20), I just got back from a family trip; sorry I didn’t respond sooner. It’s unclear whether you were disagreeing with me or with Joseph Smith in terms of having the power to create the laws by which we advance and become exalted. I was merely quoting Joseph Smith. I’m not sure he’s talking about all laws of science or what not, but he IS specifically talking about God creating the laws by which we become “gods”, and I still maintain a distinction between God and subordinate gods.

I do believe that God intends Christ to be an example of what we can become through His atonement. Christ intends to make us what He is, if we will allow it. However, what does that really mean? What does it not mean? For one thing, I know it does NOT mean that we will somehow have to perform our own “atonement” and/or relive a mortality with 23 chromosomes from a mortal mother and 23 from an immortal Father. So whatever it means to become like Him and share in all he has, there will still be a distinction between us. Christ was the Savior; I was not. He was already God when he took upon himself flesh and became a mortal; I’m not God, and I need His grace to become divine and exalted.

The Father and the Son invite us to be “one” with Them (see John 17), but we’re left to speculate on what that really means. I believe that it will be glorious and a relationship of unity based on love. But I don’t go so far to speculate that being one with Them will make us an independent God of our own world. That would be a contradiction! Yes, He will share with us all that he has. This may even include powers of creation and participation in creating other planets or what not, but like I said–it will be an extension of God’s power, not my own.

As to your other questions:
“What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?”

Broad question here. Hmmm. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: To bring us joy and exaltation–the kind of quality of life God enjoys.

“What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?”

Beyond what the Proclamation on the Family says, I don’t really have any other views to add.

“Do you believe that exalted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?”

I’m not really sure how to interpret D&C 132:19 and the “continuation of the seeds”. You seem to interpret it to mean having spirit children after the resurrection. I’m not sure that we can definitively say we know what it means or how it will work. Heck, I’m not even sure precisely how we’re “spirit children” of God and how that actually works–especially when you remember that Joseph Smith taught that spirits are co-eternal with God and uncreated.

I do know there’s more than one way to understand “Father” and even “Mother” (including in an adoptive sense, or simply nurturing an advancement of our intelligence, etc.), and the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how we became children of heavenly parents. I do know more, however, about how we are begotten children of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see, for example, Mosiah 5:7).

I personally don’t believe in a viviparous “spirit birth”, especially when Joseph Smith said over and over again that spirits are uncreated and eternal. I know that a lot of people synthesize these conflicting ideas by believing in the Tripartite model of existence (from intelligence to spirit to mortality), but Joseph never made any distinctions between eternal intelligence and spirit, and there are other concerns with the Tripartite model.

Whatever the “continuation of seeds” means, I don’t believe it involves a viviparous “spirit birth”. There are still too many unknowns, so I think I’ll simply decide to stop while I’m on firm doctrinal ground and not skate out on thin speculatory ice.

Clean Cut (46),

I agree that we can move out into speculatory thin ice. It is interesting to see your point of view.

My ten year old son has for a while been trying to grasp an eternal regression of Gods, with quite a bit of emotional angst. He, and I, have a hard time getting our minds around it. I also remember mentally struggling with it. I have settled in myself that it is something that I will fully understand only after this life. It is enough to accept the love and help of my Father in practicing the life he would have me walk.

Some say that the most important thing they learned in school was how to learn. The most important thing I can learn while in my school on earth is how to repent. I will exercise my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will be willing to accept the teachings I get from Him. I will practice what I learn to obtain attributes God has like patience, kindness, service, hard work and love. Everything else I will learn and obtain if I have learned to turn to God.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

I loved the talk by Elder Kevin W. Pearson the April Conference, "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ"

“Faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith” (Bible Dictionary, 669; see also Romans 10:14–17). Do your children know that you know? Do they see and feel your conviction? “Strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary, 669).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God’s laws the greater will be the endowment of faith” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 264). If we desire more faith, we must be more obedient. When we teach our children by example or precept to be casual or situational in obeying God’s commandments, we prevent them from receiving this vital spiritual gift. Faith requires an attitude of exact obedience, even in the small, simple things.

He reviews "Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief" and how we can build our faith by avoiding them.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Spirit of Home Teaching

I can remember looking down at the ball in my hands on one freezing winter day and seeing my bloody fingerprints on the ball. I’d been outside so long that the cold had cracked the skin on my fingertips, but my mind and my eye were on the orange rim. I can still remember it, including the chipped paint on the front edge of the rim where you’d lock your eye and know the ball would fall just past that spot into the dirt-stained net. I can still remember the mark on the driveway I’d dribble to and know I was at the top of the key. I’d spin and jump for that last second shot, with the score tied. And I’d do it again and again, sometimes for hours, feeling neither time nor the cold.

You may have learned endurance playing a trumpet, or throwing a football, or riding a bucking horse, or drawing a picture. But you learned what we all did. Effort only “now and then” didn’t take you far. The dreams that turned into reality stuck with you nearly all the time. You worked at them, either in fact or in your thoughts, every day and almost every hour.
Henry B. Eyring, “Because of Your Steadiness,” Ensign, May 1988, 39
I love home teaching. I know that when done in the right spirit with persistence, lives change. I found this talk from Henry B. Eyring that captures the spirit of home teaching. He continues:
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the Lord has said to you and to me, “Watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). God loves us, and he intends for us to become like him. He doesn’t ask us now to worry about all his children in all the world, as he does. Instead, he begins with a call to watch over just a few families, just a few people. But he knows that to visit thirty minutes every month with the same lesson for every family would never produce the progress he wants for us.

Friday, July 03, 2009

My favorite Mormon blogs

There are a few Mormon related blogs I like to follow. I plan to make this post a list of them.

One is Clean Cut. Here he gives an explanation of how grace fits into my belief and how it is sometimes misunderstood by other Christians. It fits my belief also.

Another I follow is ClobberBlog. She is married to an active LDS man. I have appreciated her candor in speaking about the difficulties she has had in this relationship. Here you can get an overview of what she is about.

Things of My Soul

None Were with Him

I just listened to "None Were with Him" by Jeffrey R. Holland as I took a walk. I am amazed how much more I get from General Conference because they are made available in mp3 format. You can download it here.

I do not remember a talk that spoke more to my heart of the deep loneliness that I have felt especially when I have turned away from His guiding light.
Brothers and sisters, my Easter-season message today is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned. These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost—or have never been blessed with—children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents—or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives.
He goes on to tell of how Jesus knows perfectly how to succor us in this loneliness, not because he also has sinned and has cut himself off from divine support; but because his father allowed for it when he removed his influence from Jesus. He had been abandoned and removed from the support of his followers. Yet, it seems that Jesus did not understand on every level what it would be like to be completely severed from the influence of God.
Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; emphasis added)

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? (John 16:32; 8:29)

For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.


When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair.
I am so grateful for the influence of Jesus Christ in my life. He has saved me from the lonely hell I had created for myself. Because of Him, I was enabled to put myself in a position to meet and fall in love with my wonderful wife. His grace has continued to strengthen me over the last 14 and a half years. He has ministered to me through his willing servants, most of all my angel wife through her patience, forgiveness and persistence. I will praise His name forever and our Father who sent Him.