Posts Tagged truth

Trust, God, and following the Prophets

From time to time there arise some issue or another where some people dislike or disapprove of something said by someone in Church leadership. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is, who said it, or what side they are arguing, the arguments tend to be the same:

– Bringing out scripture and/or previous statements
– Declaring the other side as apostate/not Christlike/tares
– Bringing out personal (or worse, someone else’s) anecdotes
– Declaring the other side is “trusting in man, not God”
– Declaring your “personal revelation” concerning the matter
– Being incredulous at what the other side “really means”
– Scoffing at how anyone could believe such a thing in the first place

platitudeThere are many, many variations, and I’m sure I’ve missed some. They get very tiring, very quickly, but are easy enough to throw out when you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to have an actual discussion about something. It’s much like the use of platitudes; you use them and show how wise you are, dismissing or affirming something with just a few words.

Now I have to seriously caveat this. I am not saying that a couple of the above items should never be done, just that they should not be used as arguments. For example, sharing scriptures, personal revelation or anecdotes that have helped form what you believe can be done, just not in the manner of “this is why you’re wrong”.

The best any of us can do is “this is why I believe what I believe”. This can be used to help convince someone to think about something differently, to reexamine or adjust what they believe, but ultimately what we believe is only as strong as the foundation we build it on. The only absolutely sure foundation is God. Anything else, anyone else you build upon has the potential to fail, even people, scriptures, or prophets. But what sort of building can you have if you wait to use only perfect materials? This is where trust comes in.

In Primary (the Church instruction for children under 12), we sing a Folk song from the South-Eastern US that gives a simplistic understanding of this (skipping repeated lines):

The wise man built his house upon the rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood still.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down, and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand washed away.

The “rock”, put simply, is God, our only sure foundation. Anything else is “sand” that will wash away when disaster comes. This beautiful, simplistic teaching can prompt us to deeper examination. While the wise man survived the floods with his house still solidly on the rock, no mention is made of the condition of the house. We’d hope that the house, with all the materials that were put into it, emerged completely unscathed, but it is very plausible that there is at least some damage. Some part of the house failed. Will it be replaced with something similar? Will it be remade into something completely different? What if that fails too? What if something bigger, that effects larger portions of the building, fails?

This is where we can have trust. This is where we have faith, knowing that our Rock, God, will not fail, even if every other part of our building falls. From here, we decide what we can build with, where we will place our trust. This is why Christ is also called the “Chief Cornerstone”. He is the first, most important, most solid stone which is firmly upon the foundation of God. We may choose other cornerstones, scriptures, prophets, our own revelations, the words of others, in building. None of these things are perfect, any more than every brick in a wall is perfect. Some flaws may be unseen. Some flaws will make no difference to your use of them. Will those flaws come to cause the whole building to collapse? Though not impossible, it may be very improbable. That determination is yours to make. God will help you find and use what materials you need.

For others you may recommend or warn in their building, but you cannot assume, get angry, or gloat if you are not heeded. You are not the architect and may have little idea what successes or failures they have had in the past. The best option is to show how you have developed your own structure, how you have repaired damage, how you have demolished some parts and replaced them with others. Help others recover when the rains and floods have caused more damage to them than to you. Encourage their honest efforts.

For me, I know where I have placed my trust. I have faith in the Scriptures and in Prophets, fully knowing that they are flawed and can be used in damaging ways. Ultimately, I am firmly anchored to the Rock. I know Jesus is a solid corner stone I can build on. I believe the Church is true. I know it has the Authority given from God. It has been a dependable material for me in the past (even when I have neglected using it), through many storms that continue to shape, mold, and grow it toward whatever end God has for it. I have faith in it being an imperfect but solid and dependable material for me to work with. I have had many of my own experiences and personal revelations that I use to continue building, as well as supports and materials given by others. Could it all be washed away with the next storm? Possible, but not likely. Even if it does, I know I can stay anchored to the Rock and build again.

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Trying to find the right cause through a haze of chronic pain

This morning I had (and am having) one of those thankfully rare days where pretty much existing hurts. On the 1-10 scale used by medical professionals right now, life tends to hang around a 3-4. This morning I was stuck pretty firmly in 9. I hesitate to ever put it at a 10, cause some part of me is pessimistically sure it could always be worse. 9 is bad enough. You don’t want to move. You’ve thoughts of curling in a ball, but adding pain by moving throws that idea out. Dying would probably be preferable, but only if you didn’t have to move to do it.

So through this, when the pain barely leaves you the ability to think, I spent my time trying to work out what influences combined to get me this way. Not that it helped deal with the pain, but was more something to be able to say, “Aha! So that’s what did it.” With the anxiety I was feeling as part of the package of swimming in so much pain, I settled on a very bad decision I’d made in my band concert last night and our continuing budgeting issues at home.

As pain meds have started their work, I’m down to about a 7, but still not back to fully functioning yet. As such, my perspectives have changed. I’d been able to recall the bowel problems I’d been ignoring the last few days and my being able to drink a quart of water before bed that didn’t cause me to need to get up in the middle of the night to let it continue it’s way through. I’d been dehydrated. Being dehydrated is a sure way to increase pain levels. Drinking more this morning has also helped get the pain levels settled down.

Sometimes when we’re mired deep in stress (of whatever kind, physical, mental, or spiritual), it can be easy to pick out things that may just be tiny compared to the less obvious and more likely thing that is causing this stress. The only way we’re going to be able to make better inferences on what is causing our stress is to work on treating it. Then, with additional clarity, we can try and get ourselves to the root cause of the problem.

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Who will we be when we wake?

One of the best episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation is entitled “The Light Within”. In it, Captain Picard finds himself thrust into a life completely foreign to what he had known. During this new life, he had the knowledge of where he had come from, but nothing else to connect him to his old life. There was no communication possible with the world left behind, nor knowledge in anyone in his new life that any other world even existed. In time, the new life had become his full reality, the past being only a vague memory. When he returned, it took some time for him to get used to the idea that 50 years had not really passed, but only a brief amount of time. To him, however, a full life of 50 years had passed, with a wife, children, and grandchildren. Those memories became a part of him, deeply effecting his life after.

Our life is similar. We came from a place of happiness, with loving parents, brothers, sisters of varying levels of closeness. We have been thrust into a body we have no idea how to make work, into a life completely foreign to the life we knew before, until our previous life fades to a vague memory that we soon forget. We live a full life, hopefully with a new family and friends, getting only impressions of where we were and where we are going after. When this life is over, we will return to the life we had before.

What will we find when we return? We know it will seem we were gone but a brief time. We will know the parents we left, the close brothers and sisters we left behind. We will remember every detail of both of the lives we have lived. Once again using our first life as a baseline, how will we see the new life we have lived? Joy? Horror? Tears? Outrage?

Who will we be when we wake?

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You must unlearn what you have learned

For those who dont know, the title is a quote from the file “The Empire Strikes Back” when Yoda is trying to teach Luke Skywalker how to use the Force, a mystical telekenetic/telepathic power that exists in that universe. In it, Yoda is meaning that Luke will need to remove himself from the “truths” he had previously learned about how things work in order to learn the real Truth. This happens to us now, when we are learning new things that we have previously learned or gleaned as true are shown to not be true. Recently a particle has been found that travels faster than the speed of light. They’re still working on duplicating the findings, but its repercussions would be a change in an hundred years of past learning in physics that nothing can travel faster than light. People have known this “truth” their whole lives and will have to unlearn what they have derived from that to learn something new. In the more distant part, people knew the world was flat, and had to unlearn this to learn something new, that the world was round.

In LDS Theology, after we die we go to Paradise to wait until we are all ressurected and at some point later undergo a final judgement to determine our ultimate place. After we die, we’re going to be in a place quite unlike this one, where we will need to learn things that are completely different from how we think of them now.

For example, we could learn that the Priesthood is for both men and women. We could also learn that it is only for men, and the exact reasons for either. Powers that are completely beyond us now, such as casting out spirits, healing, tounges, could be as acceptable and definable as electricity. No matter what the realities in the afterlife, there are going to be a number of things we are going to have to unlearn. Its also not as simple as unlearning one thing to learn another, but also unlearning our own conceptions of what limitations some things have. In the scriptures, we are told of many things we would describe as impossible, such as moving mountains, raising the dead, casting out devils, walking on water, speaking in toungues, and healing the sick and maimed. I think part of the reason we dont see such miricales as often any more, especially not the more dramatic ones, is that we don’t really believe we can do those things any more. Even something as simple as the gift of tongues (which was fairly well accepted 200 years ago) has been reduced to the occasional help with understanding a study already in progress.

There will be so much to learn in the next life, but also quite a bit to unlearn. The question then will be – are you willing to let go of what you held as true? Could you accept a complete change in what you believe, when the truth becomes as concrete as electricity moving through a wire?

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From Metaphysical to physical

I’d recently been in a discussion with another Patheos member on what it means to believe in something, and thought I’d put down an attempted explaination about how I believe that all things now considered metaphysical can also be physical. This came from a discussion on belief in the afterlife and kind of grew from there.

In any case –

To be put simply, anything that is physical is tangible. It can in some way be measured, experienced, touched, etc.. Your body is physical. Through your perceptions, you know some things about what shape it is, what its made from, how it works.

Things that are metaphysical are things that are abstract, without physical substance.

To most people, physical is real, metaphysical is not.

I know it gets kind of strange to be starting with definitions when working on an argument, but bear with me.

To me, things of the spirit (e.g. God, heaven, the afterlife) are real, physical things that we simply do not yet know how to adequately measure.

I’ll try for an analogy. If you point at the sun, you are pointing to where the sun was six minutes ago, not at its current position in the sky. You are pointing at something that is not really there. Now the sun does exist, but the sun where you are pointing does not. It is both real and not real at the same time.

Another analogy. One of my coworkers has an interesting scientific toy called a parabolic mirror. On top of it appear to be a couple of jelly beans. Using my own sight, I can see that those beans exist at that location. If I tried to touch those beans, however, my fingers would go through the image. The beans exist, but not where I can experience them with my sense of touch. Those beans are metaphysical, but also physical. They exist, just not where I could see that they existed.

It is the same with God. A person could, if they knew and followed the proper way, see God. Without using that same method, another person could not see God, and would not believe that God exists. In the analogy of the sun, if you merely shift your pointing by 6 minutes along the sun’s route, you would be pointing at the physical sun. For the beans, if you feel inside the device, you will find the physical beans. If you refuse to do what is needed to experience these things, they remain metaphysical, or not real, to you.

Even in this explanation I find I’m having difficulty finding the right words to use to describe what I am trying to get across.

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