Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Moral Absolutes

Nephi slaying Laban conflicts both the law of Moses and our delicate sensibilities.  Nonetheless, it was commanded by God and therefore we are to perceive the act of killing as in fact a righteous act in this instance.  Not that Laban was innocent; he had already tried to kill Nephi and Laman, so Nephi didn't shed innocent blood, but this is still perhaps an icky instance in our reading of the scriptures.  Surely God is linear, and would never command me to do anything that conflicts with my sense of right and wrong! (because our moral compasses are all so developed, right? Ha ha.)

I think Mormonism might be a moral relativist ideology.  In fact, much stumbling that occurs in people's testimonies is because they want things to be black and white, when in fact the terrain is constantly shifting, and unless we have a strong tie to the living water, we will get lost.  A map is no good in a shifting maze.  The adversary will not hold still, sticking to one tactic, and neither must we.  In fact, most of error is committed when a person picks one moral maxim or value (for example, charity, mourning with those that mourn) and then orienting oneself by it, rather than by God himself.  This leads to other virtues being sacrificed or subservient to the one, rather than to the true guide.  We sympathise instead of giving needed criticism because our moral absolute is "mourning with those that mourn".  We defend the sanctity of marriage, at the expense of alienating those without opportunity for marriage.  We vigorously keep the mission rules, and make that our iron rod rather than the voice of the spirit itself.  Now, these are all true principles.  We are supposed to do these things.  But it is a juggle, and a virtue without the other virtues supporting it will become a vice.  In fact, most vices are simply one virtue exaggerated and not practiced with decorum.  Hitler wanted to make Germany great again, and to fix the German economy, and those are not bad ideas, except that they were unsupported by any form of virtue in other areas.

This is why pet gospel hobbies and pet gospel peeves can be dangerous; the devil will try to make us lose track of God by getting us to orient ourselves by a single principle, rather than making God himself our compass.  The more principles you can orient yourself by, the better off you'll be.  Don't lose balance.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Open Canon

A closed scriptural canon tends to come with an attached belief that God no longer speaks.  Now, society is organic and a changing thing, and all religions will naturally be organic and changing because of that.  Hence even religions with a closed canon such as Judaism still have the Talmud and the oral Torah.  Its impossible to have one solid set of unchanging beliefs in a changing world.  The challenge is to make sure that as beliefs change, they stay in line with God's will.

A change to a religion must come through God, man, or the devil.  Without a God who speaks, without a belief in an open canon, the door to divine guidance is closed.  Man can do good things, of his own agency, and a worldly change to a religion may very well be a good thing; many worldly churches do much good.  But without active divine guidance, the church will suffer moral entropy.  It takes an outstanding leader/congregation to fight against that decay, indeed, such is a nearly futile endeavor against a powerfully manipulative devil.  Those who keep their churches pure against such deserve our respect. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Law of the Harvest

One of the founding principles of the gospel is the Law of the Harvest, and yet we so often have the audacity to be frustrated when we "aren't getting anything from it."  The church and culture could do better, but there is always more we can do, and we are the only variable we have control over.

The gospel is for /investing/.  This doesn't mean just invest time though. You can invest time and it will return, sure, but it won't give you what you look for in religion.  For the peace and the spirit and the guidance and life and vibrance offered, you have to invest emotions, and you have to invest soul. 

We sometimes think too hard on the "lose his life for my sake" scripture, thinking that the gospel is to fundamentally remake us because we're flawed sinners and all that.  Too much of this rhetoric is misleading.  The savior does not expect nor ask us to stop being... Us.  God wants us to take what you are, and channel it into the gospel.  Invest, oneself.  Not invest something that is not you, and not destroy oneself and invest the rubble that is left over, and not invest empty time and works, but invest what you are.

The more developed a person is, the more they will have to invest, but the act of investment will be harder.  One has to search for the proper niches of the gospel for oneself, which bring the most nourishment, but this searching is a difficult, energy and time consuming process.  Lots of people kind of avoid developing themselves, using the church as a substitute, clinging to church principes and in case of conflict between those and their identity, the church supercedes.  For example, not doing a thing because it is the wrong thing for a Mormon/missionary/parent/etc to do, and not because its a wrong thing based on wrong or undernourishing principles.  There is little growth, because there is no reconciling process.  The gospel forge works as we take all that we are and bring it to bear and in line with the best principles.  Avoiding and ignoring the question, acting as if we aren't what we are, will not do a lot for us.  If we want the highest quality returns, we will have to do difficult worj.

Investing with intent of returns is not wrong.  (God wouldn't promise blessings otherwise).  God wants us to have, stuff.  Spiritual stuff, temporal stuff, etc.  Gifts.  We get stuff, through the investment principle of the law of the harvest.  The point of doctrine is to teach what kind of investments will yield maximum spiritual returns.

Sometimes it helps to use some focus gimmick in order to channel into the gospel, and that's fine.  If I'm obsessed with the "mysteries" there's nothing wrong with putting in some kolob research.  If I love art, then finding or creating art in the gospel, that is good.  If I love social dynamics, I'll profit lots more from studying relationships in the Book of Mormon than someone who likes native american history.  Find the parts that work.  Its about multiplying talents, not about bashing yourself into caring about family history.  For those parts that don't work for us...  Well, there's the forge.  Look for how to reconcile these things. 

There are many archetypical roles in the gospel framework.  Teancum was an assassin.  Moroni was a political agitator, and didn't really seem to possess any mystic qualities.  Paul focused on calling people out.   Hugh Nibley just studied ancient things.  There are common gospel components- home teaching, loving people, listening to councel, Word of Wisdom, etc, but there is also a great deal of leeway, even in how one carries each of these things out.  Nowhere is it written home teachers have to once-a-month share an Ensign message.  Style your home teaching after your own identity's pattern, and then, when you have invested properly, watch for fruit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ayn Rand on Rationalization

"Men do not accept a catch phrase by a process of thought, they seize upon a catch phrase—any catch phrase—because it fits their emotions. Such men do not judge the truth of a statement by its correspondence to reality—they judge reality by its correspondence to their feelings.
If, in the course of philosophical detection, you find yourself, at times, stopped by the indignantly bewildered question: “How could anyone arrive at such nonsense?”—you will begin to understand it when you discover that evil philosophies are systems of rationalization.
...When a theory achieves nothing but the opposite of its alleged goals, yet its advocates remain undeterred, you may be certain that it is not a conviction or an “ideal,” but a rationalization."
-Ayn Rand

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Busyness Misses The Mark

"It is more noble to give oneself to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses. A man could be involved six or seven days a week, spending twelve to fourteen hours a day doing good things for other people, and yet not have a loving and meaningful relationship and communication with his wife or child or business partner; and it would take more nobility of character in the form of humility, patience, understanding, and courage to do whatever is necessary to rebuild that one relationship - to create a new and higher level of love and communication in the family - than to continue to labor diligently and faithfully for the many others outside of it. Ironically, bringing healing to this internal family or other vital relationship is often the most important key in being effective with the many. Going after the one is often the key to the ninety-nine. What a person /is/ teaches far more eloquently than what a person /says/ or even /does/. It communicates quietly, subtly; it is a constant radiation, and others, though unable to identify or articulate it, still understand it, sense it, absorb it, and respond to it. " -Steven R Covey, "The Divine Center"

Oftentimes we help and serve as a way of cowardly hiding from relationships. This is very risky, for relationships /are/ the gospel. We do well to examine if our personal busynesses are smokescreen and diversions from things of true(r) import.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gods Among Us

The creeds, the Greeks, and the Muslims, they preach of a God intransigent, nebulous, and other.  They teach of a God beyond need, a state of pure being, a character so flawless that it can't be hurt.  Kind of like a rock.  A God as inorganic as possible while still being alive.

Why do we worship the idea of something being "above need"?  Does it make something great, that it could spit upon or heal us without it making a difference?  

I would rather worship something that needs me.  To exist as a part of something greater, both beneficiary and benefactor.  I don't want to be a leech.  And a leech cannot worship its host, for it neither comprehends nor appreciates it.  Nor can the host ever really have love for the parasite, entirely dependent upon him for its existence.  Yet many would have us formulate our relationship to God as parasite/host.  Because that makes God more powerful, for him to not need us.  This is the same psychological distancing that pro-abortion advocates do- calling a fetus a parasite, in order to keep it as a second-class creature.

You do not marry a woman because she doesn't need you.  Of course, you want her to be independent, but would you want her to be in a state of sovereign apathy towards you forever?  As love grows, dependence does also.  This is why it hurts when we lose someone we love.  Understanding that God is hurt-able would stimulate one to guilt, and empathy would stimulate one to repentance.  It is thus profitable to keep God at a nice theological distance, to keep our consciences from bothering us.

We are afraid of making God human.  We are afraid of making humans gods.  And we drive this wedge between the almighty and us just as far as it will go.  We make up doctrinal justifications after the fact, but really we're just afraid.  If we get too close to God, after all, then our reality starts changing.  And who wants change?

Wouldn't want God to get too close.  Wouldn't want God to get too real.

Exodus 33:11 - The LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend

John 17:3 - And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

“Why then, since God could have created cocreators, would he choose to make us creatures? Why did God choose to make us his everlasting inferiors?”
At that point one of them said, “God’s very nature forbids that he should have peers.”
I replied, “That’s interesting. For us God’s very nature requires that he should have peers. Which God is more worthy of our love?” (The Highest In Us, Truman G Madsen)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hardened Hearts

The reason most of us keep sinning is because we don't want to overcome our sins.

Change isn't nearly so hard as building the desire to change.  Once the desire is in place, change is easy.

Talking about how to overcome sins is addressing the wrong problem.