Saturday, May 20, 2017

Shy the Allegro

"For example: most men have inner conflicts of values; these conflicts, in most lives, take the form of small irrationalities, petty inconsistencies, mean little evasions, shabby little acts of cowardice, with no crucial moments of choice, no vital issues or great, decisive battles--and they add up to the stagnant, wasted life of a man who has betrayed all his values by the method of a leaking faucet." -Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto
It is always interesting to me when people's first comment about Ayn Rand is that she is "immoral".

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Orson Scott Card's Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Orson Scott Card, Author of Ender's Game, gives his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Along with pointing out lots of interesting cultural things to Nephite Society, he gives insight as a fiction writer into where, if Joseph Smith was writing a work of fiction, he falls incredibly short. Very good read, lots of things you haven't thought of.

"Furthermore, when we do find social classes in the Book of Mormon, political divisions, they seem to reflect alien to anything Joseph Smith was familiar with. To Joseph Smith, social classes were based entirely on money, which was displayed in the form of property. Where money is the basis of social distinction in the Book of Mormon, it is never associated with land, but rather with fine clothing. This is entirely consistent with Meso-America, but hardly a pattern Joseph Smith would have known."
"In fact, the very lack of exotic names supports the genuineness of Joseph Smith's translation. Science fiction writers and critics are quite aware of a long tradition of what James Blish called "shmeerps." Blish pointed out how silly it was that most science fiction writers, when trying to show an alien fauna, would produce a creature that looked like a rabbit and acted like a rabbit and was treated like a rabbit, and yet it was called a "shmeerp." This is ludicrous, of course. People migrating to a new land with strange plants and animals will use familiar names for the new creatures. Thus the English immigrants to America called the bison "buffaloes" and referred to maize as "Indian corn" and finally just "corn," even though in England that word had been a generic term for grain. The English felt no need to come up with new names for items that were "close enough."
Surely the Nephites followed the same pattern, using old words for new objects. Thus, if in fact there were no horses in America at the time of the Book of Mormon, the Hebrew wordfor horse could still quite readily be applied to some other animal that functioned like a horse. Furthermore, the language Mormon wrote in may well have been an ideographic language, in which case it would hardly matter what the spoken word for a particular animal was, as long as Nephite writers had agreed to use the old "horse" ideograph to refer to that animal. Thus it is no more surprising that the word "horse" appears in the Book of Mormon than that the word "buffalo" was used in a nation where there were no buffaloes, but only bison."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spiritual Beggars

We notice that there is a group of (260?) people who vote opposed in conference.  From their Facebook group, it sounds like their main issue is the CES letter, which means their vote really has nothing to do with concerns and more that they're just kinda hoping some apostle will get up in conference and be like "dang CES letter, I guess God really isn't speaking to us.  sorry."

I lean strongly Libertarian, and am a fair follower of Ayn Rand (I own more of her works than just Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead), and remember that often she was accused of being greedy, selfish, psychopathic, etc. For advocating her ideas.  She was not:

"Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal." -Ayn Rand
In similar vein, I say that addressing the faithless' doubts and concerns is not the issue; the issue is whether the beggars of faith in apostasy have a right to personal, on-demand attention from the leadership.  Whether the 'old ship zion' must buy leave for its activities from every doubter in spiritual poverty that might wish for it to stop and let them examine it.  These are not generating "wealth" (faith).  Following Ayn Rand's philosophy: if we choose give of our attention to those in poverty, great.  This is good.  But they have no /right/ to our attention.  They have no right to pick apart our testimonies just because they "have questions".

Its not that we don't care about the struggling, nor that we shouldn't help them, but especially in conference, the church's duty is first to its own.  A pleading mother is seeking revelation, through conference, of what she needs to do about a wayward child.  A missionary is praying that an apostle will speak to his investigator who reluctantly agreed to come to conference.  Millions of people, in similar situations, seeking aid from God, which one doubter seeks to disrupt to get personal attention.  Similarly to how we do not give to every beggar who approaches us, we are not called on to engage with Korihor.  We may or may not, but there is a time and a place.  In the end, each is responsible to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.  God won't count peanut-gallery faith-potshots as acceptable.  This is the problem with sign-seeking; its shifting the burden of investigation on another, which will never give one the light a testimony earned through fire and tears will.

Its better to be forthright about one's lack of oil, than to let the person believe they have oil until the bridegroom calls.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Some Quotes On Blind Obedience

"Though general authorities are authorities in the sense of having power to administer Church affairs, they may or may not be authorities in the sense of doctrinal knowledge, the intricacies of church procedures, or the receipt of the promptings of the Spirit. A call to an administrative position itself adds little knowledge or power of discernment to an individual. (Elder McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, s.v. "General Authority")"

"The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book. They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of the instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites. Whatever is done by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in our day, has commanded this Church to do it. No book presides over this Church, and no book lies at its foundation. You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God's priesthood, inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the constitution of the Church of Christ. … Divine revelation adapts itself to the circumstances and conditions of men, and change upon change ensues as God's progressive work goes on to its destiny. There is no book big enough or good enough to preside over this Church. (Elder Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, October 1916, p. 55. Quoted by Loren C. Dunn, in General Conference, Ensign May 1976, p.65-66)"

Found here

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.