Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Purpose for this Site

I have spent the past little while roaming the Bloggernacle, and commenting on various sites while reading what was on offer (and reading others' blogs).  Partially this was to learn what there was to learn, but also it was to see what aspects of Mormon thought I had to offer that wasn't covered better elsewhere.

After review, the best thing that I believe that I have to offer is a look backwards.  Many of the issues that we face today have been already faced by the best and brightest minds the world has to offer.  They have been resolved, and sometimes resolved finally, but too often we don't know because we are busily arguing out those issues today.  So my goal is to provide historical knowledge of what has been thought before on many issues.

I expect I will draw a great deal from C. S. Lewis, who wrote about nearly every central matter in Mormon and Christian thought.  In fact, I have a work in progress entitled "C. S. Lewis Preemptively Responds to the Bloggernacle" that cover many of the major fallacies that keep getting repeated and how they are addressed.  It also discusses many of the issues (Lewis wrote an entire essay on the ordination of women to the priesthood).  But that is for another day.

I believe that I will begin at the foundational building blocks -- theism and atheism.  Most people (including every atheist) do not seem to be aware of the existing logical proofs of God.  When I presented a summary of them on Mormonity a few days ago, each and every one of them were incorrectly interpreted and I was told to argue that on reddit, because that is where all the great thinking on Deity is done these days (?).  I hope to present each of those proofs of God in a clear and concise manner, so that those reading them will understand that the vast sum of evidence is on the side of the theist.  I will also address other issues that have been dealt with before, including prayers, miracles, and so forth.  Intermixed with this, I will bring up issues specific to Mormonism and the Restoration.

In closing, I will include one quote from C. S. Lewis that would seem to indicate that this venture that I am undertaking is worthwhile:

"If one has to choose between reading the new books and reading the old, one must choose the old; not because they are necessarily better but because they contain precisely those truths of which our own age is neglectful.  The standard of permanent Christianity must be kept clear in our minds and it is against that standard that we must test all contemporary thought."

Friday, May 30, 2014

Joshua 19-21

(May 30, 2014)
I had two thoughts as I read through these chapters.  The first was the impossible standard that we set for our Priesthood leaders.  In these chapters we have two examples of the Prophet Joshua making errors in the performance of his stewardship and having to correct those errors.  Joshua was given an assignment of the Lord to establish inheritances for the tribes, and yet he made Judah’s inheritance too large and Dan’s inheritance too small.  Both of these had to be correct.

Today, had President Monson made such a mistake, there would be angry calls for him to resign, that he was a fallen prophet, or that he never was a prophet in the first place.  How sad that is that so many people are willing to respect the prophets of the past (even when they made mistakes), but are unwilling to respect the prophets of today if they are given any indication that they are something less than perfect.  May we be more charitable to our prophets now, and be willing to follow them even in their mistakes (not because of them, but because of who they represent to us).

The second thought I had was on the sanctuary cities.  This was a law that was teaching an important lesson, but it was a lesson out of time and out of place.  The sinner retreats to the sanctuary, were he stays trapped until such time as the high priest dies.  Then, and only then, he can go free.  This is clearly a reference to Christ, but it would not have made very much sense to the average Hebrew who happened to read it.  I think that there is a great deal of that going around today – things that don’t seem to make sense to us will one day make perfect sense (if only we are patient enough to wait on the Lord to further enlighten us).

3 Nephi 13

(May 30, 2014)
There is a great deal of comfort in reading this chapter, because it shows to us how we have a loving Father who actively wants to take care of us and makes us happy.  Sometimes I believe that we mistakenly believe that our Father wants us to be unhappy.  We see ourselves as suffering for the faith, and believe that it is the Father’s will.

But that isn’t what Father wants.  He wants us to be happy, but eternally happy.  So sometimes He will set aside what we might want in the short term to make us happy while keeping a long-term perspective on how we can become the person that we should and must become to find a fullness of joy.  If there is something that I want that I believe will make me happy (let’s use a silly example – a chocolate sundae), then I can take that request to the Father.  God wants me to be happy, so should the receipt of the sundae not stifle me spiritually in some way, I can trust that my loving Father will give me a sundae.  If, on the other hand, I am not given a sundae for some reason I can likewise trust that the only reason I am not getting a sundae is because Father has something even better in mind for me.

Yet when we don’t get our sundae, we sometimes complain and murmur (internally, even if not publicly).  We are like the children who want our parents to take us to McDonald’s for sundaes and get angry when they don’t, while our parents are busily driving us towards Disney World.  There may be nothing wrong with a sundae, but it isn’t what will make us the happiest (and that is what Father longs to give each of us).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Joshua 17-18

(May 29, 2014)
Sometimes I think we are all a little bit like the Josephites in these chapters.  We see ourselves as ‘great people,’ and we want to be rewarded as though we are great people.  What we don’t want to do, though, is to do work like we are great people.  When it comes time for something to happen, we look outward rather than inward and heavenward for the blessings we seek.  We want someone to give us what we deserve, without going through the messy difficulty of actually deserving anything.

3 Nephi 12

(May 29, 2014)
It is always amazing to me how many people believe themselves justified in ignoring the Prophets and Apostles.  It is one thing, I suppose, if having sought out a witness of the truth you cannot find one.  It is another if, having found such a witness, you still attempt to hold on to your ‘independence’ by claiming that Prophets and Apostles are teachers but not leaders.

Christ Himself demonstrates that to be a lie in this chapter.  He could not be more explicit – “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you.”  This has nothing to do with any infallibility in them, but has everything to do with the fact that our Lord has chosen them, and we worship Him by following them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Joshua 15-16

(May 28, 2014)
The thing about the Bible is that it wasn't primarily written, to my knowledge, as a religious text.  It is primarily a political text, and the religious events are used to demonstrate the legitimacy of the political authority.  It is the equivalent of the founding myths of Rome, or other such documents.

You would think that such a reaction would make me more suspicious of the Bible as a source of truth.  Not so, and in fact it is the very opposite.  Intermingled with the language of Judah and Joseph’s inheritance are proscribed behaviors – making this a text that includes a founding myth that also provides an ethical foundation.  You don’t see that in other founding myths.  It is distinct in its character – the closest you get it some concern about ethics on the margin (for example, the warning of anger in the Iliad).  Most foundational texts are so worried about explaining why the rulers rule that there is nothing that explains why they might not rule.

In the Bible, we have that.  We have a text that explains why the Israelites were given the Promised Land and why they would lose it.  The prophecy (unarguably pre-dating the text we have) was fulfilled, and the Israelites were taken into bondage.  Then they were restored, but only in part.  All along, the explanation as to why they were in bondage rather than ruling the Promised Land were clearly given.

Thus the Bible is something different – something unique.  It is the text we would expect to have arrived to us from the past based upon the covenant nature of the Lord’s chosen people.  For all of the difficult parts to it (and they exist), this carries throughout the text.

3 Nephi 11

(May 28, 2014)
It is difficult to understand where the line between contention and defending the faith arises.  On the one hand, presumably someone was right and someone was wrong about the disputations on baptism that Christ references in this chapter.  On the other hand, He clearly does not limit His criticism to those who are on the wrong side of correct doctrine.  Somehow we must come to an understanding of how to present correct doctrine (even in the face of opposition) without contending or disputing.

Having tried to learn this over the course of the past little bit, I think that I have learned a couple of rules that I can apply for at least my personal situation.  First, if I am angry, I need to let someone else deal with the situation.  I am not so irreplaceable as to have insights that can be obtained in no other way, so my anger disqualifies me from the Spirit and thus participation.  Second, if I am proud of what I know or believe or I am disdainful of what others know or believe then I likewise need to keep quiet.  Finally, if what I present has more to do with something other than the Lord's work, I need to be quiet.

There are, of course, opportunities to speak up even in light of those prohibitions.  But I haven't seen too many positive consequences when I have violated those rules.  At least for me, this seems to be what separatings defending the faith from contending and disputing doctrine.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is Atheism Irrational?

I finished a five-day debate on Mormanity on this particular topic with a man named Chris, who was convinced that reason and evidence demanded strong agnosticism approaching atheism. The reality is that of the dozens of strong arguments in the field of philosophy on theism, all but one of them are pro-theist.  I found a well-written article on the New York Times (of all places) on the issue, and I wanted to post it here just in case Chris (or someone else) traced back our conversation thread and was willing to read it.

Is Atheism Irrational?

Joshua 14

(May 27, 2014)
There have always been those who sought to go outside the Lord’s pattern for His Church and to try to circumvent Priesthood leaders.  But, by the same token, there have also been those who have followed the Lord’s pattern throughout history.  In this chapter, we have a fine example of the latter.  Though Caleb had been promised a blessing from the Lord Himself, he did not presume to claim that blessing outside the established order.  Instead he went to Joshua – the head of Christ’s Kiingdom of God on Earth – and requested the promised blessing (which was given to him).  What a wonderful example that sets for each of us.

3 Nephi 9-10

(May 27, 2014)
There are a couple of common assumptions (on both sides of the political aisle) that seem to be contradicted by these chapters.  The first of those is that Jacob is condemned not only for his unrighteousness, but also for his overthrow of the government.  But if we remember, the government wasn’t particularly very righteous at that time – secret combinations had infected it and the patient was very near terminal before Jacob finished the job.  What does that say to those who daydream about the revolution and armed resistance against a corrupt government (as we have seen in the Nevada BLM issue)?

While I happen to agree that governments are often corrupt, and even agree that our current government is more particularly corrupt, I don’t see any scriptural justification for the overthrow of a government through violent or non-violent means.

Secondly , I thought for a bit about the statement that the cities were destroyed because there were none that were righteous among them.  Thinking about the way that I think about the world, I suppose that I tend to believe that in any sufficiently large group there will be people both wicked and righteous.  This colors the way that I look at people, and in a generally positive way (I believe).  If I am discussing an issue with a group that holds a differing viewpoint to mine, I am more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt because of my belief that in the group of those holding a similar viewpoint, there exists people who hold that viewpoint who are likely more righteous than I am.

But I think that, while holding that view is a positive thing and worth remembering, it is also important to recognize that when things get bad enough a certain group can become so bad and so beyond the pale that no one belonging to that group is righteous.  We must not place groups beyond the pale cavalierly, but we must likewise not be afraid to do so if the situation or circumstances finally warrant it.

Finally, I look at the Lord’s language on those who are spared.  I am often humbled to look at the few events in my life where my life could have easily gone another way but for Divine intervention.  I don’t know what I might have done to warrant this Divine intervention, but if I had not received it I would most certainly be very far astray.  The Lord’s language as to those who were spared because they were more righteous, and yet were not righteous, was language I need to take to heart.  What am I doing to repent and return to the Lord in appreciation for the blessings He has given me to allow me to stay close to Him and not perish in wickedness and apostasy?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Joshua 11-13

(May 26, 2014)
Sometime I wonder whether I am understanding a particular scripture or not, and it often comes down to historical knowledge.  For example, in the last of these chapters I read that Israel did not properly expel the Geshurites and the Maachathites from the Promised Land.  Does this have anything to do with the ultimate problems they experienced as a nation?  It would seem so, as the writer saw fit to mention it.  And it has a good lesson for us to learn, if accurate.  We are fighting a war (with God as our Champion and Ally) for the Promised Land of our soul.  Do we fight until we are comfortable with our inheritance, or do we fight until we have conquered everything the Lord set us out to conquer?  Do we allow our enemies to reside in our soul, so long as they hold to their ‘proper’ place, or do we do whatever is necessary to drive them out?

3 Nephi 8

(May 26, 2014)
The dual problems of inerrancy and infallibility are not problems in the Church.  On the issue of infallibility, we are very open about the mistakes that our leaders make – whether they be (from time to time) spiritual mistakes or whether they be temporal mistakes (such as in the reckoning of time, as Mormon mentioned here).  On the issue of inerrancy, this scripture refutes that (as does the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants that Paul, in at least one instance, was speaking as himself as a man rather than speaking by the Spirit).

When I speak with people who are not familiar with this concept, they tend to argue against positions that we don’t hold (‘such and such said this once, so defend it!’) or they take the counter position that if a leader is not infallible then they are worthless or if the scriptures are not inerrant, they are useless.  Both of these ignore the fact that our leaders and the scriptures both serve to bring us closer to Christ – He is perfect, even if our meager, halting efforts to move towards Him (and help others towards Him) are not.

Joshua 9-10

(May 25, 2014)
I can remember a number of people who lost their testimonies over the Mark Hoffman situation.  I always found that a bit bizarre, but more so when thinking of it in light of these chapters.  After all, didn’t Joshua make a mistake here?  And do we not know that he was a prophet?  Of course we do.

The better lesson, though, is how important it is not to trust our eyes, but rather to trust the Lord.  Even when we think we might know what is going on, it is important to always take matters to the Lord to better understand His will and to not make the mistakes that we would otherwise be making.

3 Nephi 7

(May 25, 2014)
I find Nephi’s experience here to be illustrative, because I have seen this in both my life and in the life of those I have spoken with.  When I am in the wrong, I become angry when I am shown to be in the wrong (and the more convincing the proof, the more angry I become).  Likewise, when I am showing someone else they are wrong, they become angry with me (and the better my proof, the angrier they become).

You would think that we would desire to be right – especially about an issue as important as the truth of our eternal salvation.  But that just isn’t the way the natural man is wired.  We want to protect our worldview (and, often with it, our excuses for our personal sins and imperfections), and we are so desperate to cling to that worldview that we persist long after we should have abandoned it.

Joshua 8

(May 24, 2014)
I see the strategy which Joshua used on behalf of Israel, and it makes me wonder whether or not similar strategic meetings are taking place on the other side of the Veil.  Sometimes it is discouraging to look at the world around us seeming to fall apart, and I am led to wonder why things go the way that they do.  But I imagine that the Lord likewise has a long-term strategy in mind, and from time to time certain may lure His adversary into making mistakes through pressing an illusory advantage.

3 Nephi 6

(May 24, 2014)
It is tempting to return railing for railing, and turning the other cheek is one of the most painful things that I have to do in my life.  I, at times, feel as though no one in the world listens to my thoughts.  I am constantly being the one having pressure placed upon me to change in this way or that, and while this happens I have no mechanism for bringing about change in my situation.  I do not understand how to function when I am in a situation where I am to be criticized, but even to argue in my defense is to escalate the situation.  Instead, I am obligated to bite my tongue.

It is hard, and I often wonder how to manage under these conditions.  The one thing that I continue to believe is that the Lord understands my heart and my actions.  The day will come when the railing that I have endured will be answered by Him, and I will kneel at His feet and know that He has heard me and will judge me fairly.

Joshua 5-7

(May 23, 2014)
I don’t doubt that many of our common problems with the Church are derived in similar ways to the problems people had with Joshua.  The Prophet says he speaks for the Lord, and tells the people to do something.  They do it, and they fail in the attempt (and are often ashamed or embarrassed for it).  Only after an examination is made do we discover the real reason for failure – it was unrighteousness.  Maybe not unrighteousness of the prophet and maybe not of the doubter, but unrighteousness just the same.

3 Nephi 5

(May 23, 2014)
Sometimes I like to focus in on the elements of the scriptures that add to the probability that they are true.  These sorts of things may not establish the truth (only the Spirit can do that), but they do increase our intellectual confidence.

For example, Joseph Smith was accused of being a liar and a con-man.  Were he a liar and a con-man, he would well know that people cannot be trusted in his society.  Why would he then state that once a person stated that they would follow the Gospel they were let free (though they were once military enemies)?  That is a very Mesoamerican thing to do, and it is actual a little bit of a Hebrew thing to do, but what it most certainly was not was a 1820s con-man thing to do.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Joshua 2-4

(May 22, 2014)
Sometimes the lessons in the scriptures are so obvious as to almost blind you to noticing anything else.  So it is with these chapters – what else is there to talk about than the Ark and the crossing of the River Jordan.  The miracle happened, and the water stopped, but it wasn’t until each of their feet entered the water that they were able to see the miracle.  So too it is with each of us – we may want and need the miracle, but until we get our feet wet the Lord will not stop the river.

3 Nephi 4

(May 22, 2014)
The Gadianton robbers were parasites -- unable to live without their responsible hosts.  While it is easy to look at them with condemnation (deservedly so), it is also important to look inward when we see bad examples, so we can see those ways we imitate or follow their paths.  Each of us, in our chosen professions, are either getting paid for the work we do -- allowing us to make a living while we do something good for the world -- or we are taking from those around us.  Sometimes that line may be blurred -- what am I to do when a client wants to pay me to push forward a case, knowing that the case has little merit? -- but oftentimes we know where the line is in our gut even if we cannot articulate the reasons we draw the line there.

I have often thought the best manner to know whether we are parasitic in our profession is to imagine ourselves practicing our profession in the Millennium.  Would lawyers still be needed?  I assume so, to resolve disputes fairly and present matters to the judges and stake presidents (after all, there are essentially lawyers in Church disciplinary councils).  So the practice of law is not per se parasitic.  But what about the way that I practice?  Could I practice the way that I practice in the Millennium?  I think so, but it is something to consider.

Quote of the Day

"Gay marriage is a lie.  Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we're going to do with marriage when we get there.  It's a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist."
--Gay activist Masha Gessen

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

"All science rests on observation: all our observations are taken during Humpty Dumpty's fall, because we were born after he lost his seat on the wall and shall be extinct long before he reaches the ground.  But to assume from observations taken while the clock is running down that the unimaginable winding-up which must have preceded this process cannot occur when the process is over is the merest dogmatism.  From the very nature of the case the laws of degradation and disorganization which we find in matter at present, cannot be the ultimate and eternal nature of things.  If they were, there would have been nothing to degrade and disorganize.  Humpty Dumpty can't fall off a wall that never existed."

--C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock.

Joshua 1

(May 21, 2014)
It is fascinating to see the change in tone and text.  Moses the lawgiver has spent countless years in the desert wandering – dealing with problems as they occur, being responsive, and teaching the people.  Now, however, within a very short time the death of Moses, Joshua is responding to the command of the Lord and turning a passive people into an active one.

The instruction for accomplishing this design is interesting.  Be strong.  Be of good courage.  Deviate not to the left or the right (stay on the strait and narrow).  Boldly move forward.  As we see the world crumbling around us (and, in many ways, it is) we are tempted to be passive.  I see the mistakes that society has made, and I have been tempted to say that it is only that much better for me and mine.  I will raise my children to know the Gospel and to live it, and they will have so much the advantage over those who are squandering their birthright.  My sons, raised in a two-parent home and well-educated, will thrive in the job market when competing with the children who lacked such advantages.  My daughters, inspired by the actions of their mother (a brilliant scientist who sacrificed her career to raise her children in righteousness) will likewise be fantastic mothers because of her example and raise other, righteous children to pass that legacy onward.  So I am tempted to turtle, build my family, and let the world go to Hell around me (literally).

But that is not the correct course of action.  There was a time for passively building and changing the nature of the people, just as there was a time for passively building my testimony and my knowledge of the Gospel.  This is not that time, however.  Instead, I believe this to be the time for squaring my shoulders, being strong and of good courage, and stepping forward into the breach.  It may not be what I want to do, and I might not be very good at it, but it is what I am prepared to do.

3 Nephi 2-3

(May 21, 2014)
C. S. Lewis, in God in the Dock, points out that it is appropriate that a believer understand an atheist and a righteous man understand a wicked man, while the reverse is not often true.  He made the analogy to sanity and madness – the sane man can look upon the mad and understand (although perhaps not empathize with) his behavior while the madman cannot understand the behavior of the sane.  So it is with the believer and the unbeliever – the actions of the believer seem ridiculous to the unbeliever, but the actions of the unbeliever make perfect sense to the believer (even if they make no sense to the unbeliever that is performing them).

This struck me particularly after spending the last several days arguing theology with an atheist.  The atheist could not come to understand my arguments, despite them being drawn from the most basic arguments made on the subject of deist apologetics.  I am certain my arguments were clumsy and presented poorly, but that still did not explain why the atheist completely missed them.  But what is particularly interesting was not that I was arguing with him (and he was not my main audience – I argued with him so that others looking at the thread would not assume the atheist correct in his assertion that he was just ‘following the evidence’).  What was interesting was that the atheist was arguing with me.

After all, a reductive materialist would have no belief in ultimate right or wrong (those are, to his mind, social constructs).  He gained no marginal utility for winning or losing his argument.  He was relying on a clumsy, mechanical instrument (human intellect) that could be no more relied upon than a machine that built itself.  Even when confronted with this incongruity, the atheist defended his position with an illogical response (desiring a world without religion – as if his actions were in furtherance of that goal).  The atheist could not understand the beliefs and actions of the believer, nor could the atheist understand his own actions.  His worldview did not provide sufficient context for the observations made in even that simple exchange.  To the believer, however, everything made sense (even my poor reasoning and argumentative style – despite my position being correct, I was and am a poor messenger for the Truth).

I was thinking of that as I read the letter of Giddianhi.  Giddianhi clearly does not understand why he is writing the letter that he is writing – he doesn’t understand the way believers think and he clearly doesn’t understand his own thoughts.  He butters up to Lachoneus, making an appeal to his pride (another thing that happened occasionally in my discussion with the atheist online – he would compliment me when ever I made what he considered concessions and yet claim that when I presented evidence he didn’t like I was being dogmatic and unreasonable).  Giddianhi views his relationship with Lachoneus solely through a social and materialistic lense – socially because of the flattery and materialistic through his reference to the military power at his disposal.  Right and wrong are twisted, but right and wrong are twistable in Giddianhi’s philosophical worldview – after all, they are only social constructs.

Reading this, it is clear that as a believer it is fairly easy to understand the actions and beliefs of Giddianhi.  It is also clear that Giddianhi, like any other madman looking at the behavior of the sane, understands neither his own actions nor the actions of the believer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Deuteronomy 33-34

(May 20, 2014)
A few words seem in order for Moses, as we reach the conclusion of his story in the Old Testament.  I don’t think that we properly appreciate the burden that he was under, or the things which he did on behalf of his people.  We sometimes joke that the hardest job in the Church is organizing Girl’s Camp – between the food, the religious instruction, the entertainment, the chaperoning, and so forth it is a massive undertaking.  And yet, it is something done for a week for a dozen people.  Moses led a group of Israelites with a slave-mentality for 40 years in the desert, and handed off to Joshua a people with the beginning of an understanding of the Lord’s Law.  What he did cannot be overstated – Moses ushered in monotheism to humanity (at least, restored it as part of his dispensation).

3 Nephi 1

(May 20, 2014)
When I was much younger, I would read chapters like this and wonder how it was possible that someone could experience a day and a night and a day of no darkness (predicted by the prophets) and yet not believe.  Now, as I am older, I really understand it.  When you are not connected to the Truth, you can almost choose to believe whatever you want to believe and your mind will fill in the gaps.  Lying to yourself is a constant danger, and it is only by careful examination of yourself and frequent recourse to prayer that you are capable of knowing what is true and what is just what you want to be true.  I see it in atheists, who stubbornly retain a belief in atheism against all reason and logic – they want to be atheists, they need to be atheists, because if God exists that means there is a right and a wrong, and if there is a right and a wrong, then they may be wrong.  And that is intolerable.  And so they lie to themselves.  No sign would convince them otherwise.  The problem is that this same tendency exists in each of us unless we are careful to avoid it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Deuteronomy 32

(May 19, 2014)
Every one of us has a promised land.  For some of us it might be the job we want, or the wife or husband we want, or the family we want, or the position of leadership (in or out of the Church) that we want.  But there is something that represents, to us, our temporal promised land.  Maybe, we are even willing to wait upon the Lord for this promised land – knowing that no matter how much we may want this thing, we must always put the Lord first.

But even understanding that, it is so very hard to be in the situation where you come to realize that whatever this promised land that you want may be, you will not receive it in mortality.  I think that is probably the most common lot for us – we want things that we think are reasonable and good (and we often want them desperately), but the Lord’s plan for our greater eternal happiness does not run along the course that would allow us to receive these particular temporal blessings.  Like Moses, we are called to serve the Lord until such time as the Lord calls us up to His mountain for us to be reunited with our ancestors.

It is a painful thought, as we break ties with things that we may want so very much (especially when, as with Moses, this break is because of our own mistakes).  But, ultimately, we must trust that the Lord knows best how to succor His children with those things that we stand in need of.  The Savior has, walking with us, experienced the same feelings of despair and loss as the important temporal things of life slipped forever out of our reach.  And He walks with us still, and from that we can know that as much as it may hurt He will dry our tears and make us whole in the eternities.

Helaman 15-16

(May 19, 2014)
The reaction of the Lamanites to their conversions (as opposed to the Nephites) I think has a message for us in our days of retention efforts for youth.  I think the main issue as to why the Lamanites stayed strong and the Nephites waivered was the fact that the Lamanites were new to the Spirit, and thus they felt it very strongly.  The Nephites, on the other hand, grew up in the faith and had the Spirit more or less with them throughout their lives.  This taught them a great deal and helped to prepare them, but having never felt the absence of the Spirit they had difficulty recognizing His presence.

I can relate to that – I never learned more about the Spirit than I did in the course of my life where I became unworthy of the Spirit and then worked to regain that worthiness over time.  The reintroduction of the Spirit demonstrated to me what I had been operating without for so very long.  I had lived in a lit room, then wandered in the darkness, finally returning to the light.  The light had been so omnipresent growing up and in my early adult years (despite a period of not recognizing what it was and despite my limited worthiness even then) that I didn’t appreciate its constant presence.  When I wandered the darkness, then reentered the light – then I realized what a blessing that light was to me in my life.

What does that mean for the Church (and, in particular, for my own children)?  The Spirit waxes and wanes as we live the Gospel – and, during those times when the Spirit’s presence is strong we must identify it so that they feel and understand what the Spirit is.  We must also provide opportunities for them to feel it, and we need to let them know from our experience (instead, hopefully, from their own) the consequences of living without the Spirit and what a blessing that it is to have the Spirit in their lives.

The other thought that I had was in understanding the Book of Mormon as having taken place in a particular place and time.  The statement of the ‘people’ that the priests would use cunning arts to bind the people as their servants was not something that was understood in the 19th Century, but was very common in many ancient cultures.  A shaman, using showmanship, chemistry, and ritual would bind the people to him to follow his every word – and surely such false priests and priestcrafts were not unknown to the people of Nephi.  So it is understandable that they would have that concern, even if it was directed at the wrong prophet.

Deuteronomy 31

(May 18, 2014)
At times, at this stage of my life, I feel frustration as I attempt to do things and find my best efforts falling short.  I have put forth significant efforts in things that will never see the light of day, and which I must now admit have been nothing but failures (excepting that they taught me, which I suppose is purpose enough).  I understand, because of that, how difficult it must have been for Moses to see all of his work destined to fail.  Can you imagine working and struggling for 40 years to develop the people of the Lord, only to have the Lord tell you at your death that the people would fall away and be lost and turn to idolatry and wickedness?  Could you have faulted Moses if he wondered what it had all been for?

Helaman 14

(May 18, 2014)
In this chapter, where Samuel lays out so many signs of Christ’s coming, I am brought to again think about what it means to be a sign-seeker, and the purpose for which signs are given.  Samuel sets out that signs are given that we might believe on Christ’s name.  But if we believe on His name, we will repent of all of our sins.  So I think there is a connection there that is important – we are given the signs we may seek in order to believe, but we must be willing to exercise that belief to repent of our sins.

Is that what differentiates a disciple receiving a sign from a sign-seeker?  Is that why Gideon was given his sign (he was prepared to follow it, and only wanted to make certain his orders) while others were not?  I think there is a true lesson there.

Deuteronomy 29-30

(May 17, 2014)
The language used in these chapters is powerful – even with the distance of millennia in time and culture, and even through translation.  As I read, I felt filled with the desire to commit myself through oath to the Lord and to follow Him regardless of what was asked.  I cannot imagine, with everything that changed between the days when this was written and today, that this was due to any particular rhetorical value in the message.  Instead, I am certain that it is the power of the Spirit that accompanies this message that calls to me the way that it called to the Israelites.

Helaman 13

(May 17, 2014)
We understand that each of us, to receive a fullness of joy, must become perfect.  That means, axiomatically, that we will be required to change (and to change in painful ways) in order to receive that blessed reward.  Why, then, are we so very reluctant to change?  Why do we want our preachers to preach comfortable doctrine to us?  Our appreciation for those in positions of stewardship over us should come from the answer to one question – does their leadership help me to change for the better? – and, if so, we should be grateful regardless of whatever else might happen.

Of course, this is easier to say than to live.  And it is equally applicable to the events and circumstances of our lives.  It is one thing to say that we want to be perfect, but another to suffer through reverses of fortune and heartache that might be necessary to bring that perfection about.  We pray to be more like the Father, then quake at the painful process of repentance and beg the Lord to remove the very burdens off our shoulders that are forming us into the perfect beings He wants us to be.

Deuteronomy 28

(May 16, 2014)
It is hard to know what is an appropriate understanding of when our temporal blessings are from the Lord.  After all, don’t we also believe that the absence of temporal blessings does not constitute evidence that the Lord is angry with us?  I can think of a number of people more righteous than I (by any apparent standard) who make less money than I do.  I can think of a number of people less righteous than I (by any apparent standard) who make more money than I do.  Doesn’t that mean that we cannot draw a correlation between wealth and righteousness?

And yet, all of the blessings and cursing in this chapter seem to be of a temporal nature.  At first I debated the idea that it was only symbolic, but many of the promised cursings actually took place in a temporal fashion (in a way that seemed to me yet another powerful example of Moses and his prophetic capacity).  What does that mean we are to derive from our level of temporal success?  Should I fear disobedience in my life when my job takes an unexpected setback?

Helaman 12

(May 16, 2014)
I have thought earlier about how, in the very time that we begin to repent, things completely fall apart in our lives – we can merrily go along sinning fat, dumb, and happy but when we try to change the roof falls in on us.  I attributed this to Satan – willing to let us calmly go astray but fighting to crush us when we depart toward the Lord.  But what if that isn’t the case?  What if, as we see here, the Lord blesses us with cursing and terrors to keep us focused on Him?  What if, during the time that we are prepared to change, the Lord uses these disasters to better assist us in changing to follow His way?  It is an interesting thought.

Deuteronomy 26-27

(May 15, 2014)
The repetition and covenant making in this chapter was such a powerful echo (pun intended) of the process by which we are taught in the temple that it cannot be an accident.  I wonder whether what we are reading about in this chapter is a proto-endowment service.

Helaman 10-11

(May 15, 2014)
I don't think that it was an accident that the contentions described in this chapter increase after the people choose not to hearken to the words of Nephi.  Having talked with my fair share of non-believers online, it seems to be a common trait that once a person rejects the Lord's word, they become hostile towards not only believers but each other as well.  I can only assume that is a nature consequence of the loss of the Spirit that accompanies such a willful departure from the Lord.

Deuteronomy 24-25

(May 14, 2014)
My thoughts as I read this chapter were on obedience, and the need for strict obedience.  The Mosaic Law counseled perfect and just weights.  This was to the individual detriment of each person who followed it – if they amended their weights they could gain advantage.  But if everyone were strictly obedience, then society as a whole (and the individuals thereby) would gain a dramatic benefit.

This, to me, is the same as the benefits of strict obedience.  Perhaps I could enjoy a few more things in my life if I were not strictly obedient to the Gospel and my Priesthood leaders.  But if we all work together, we will be able to accomplish so much more in building the Kingdom of God that it will make the tiny bit of freedom lost (if freedom truly is lost by willing obedience) more than overcome by the profound benefits gained.

Helaman 9

(May 14, 2014)
Part of the problem with wickedness is that, ultimately, nobody is on the same team.  Everyone is really just in it for themselves.  Few people don the shirt proudly proclaiming that they  support “Team Evil” (although, sadly, it seems to actually be happening from time to time now).  Instead, they just selfishly seek out what they feel to be in their best interests.  In this way, they are like a yoke with oxen pulling in opposite directions – a lot of mud gets kicked around but nothing really gets down.

That is the great advantage of the Gospel – there are many who willingly take the mantle of “Team Good” (to the best of their ability).  And that is why it is so important that we form a Zion society – because, short of Divine intervention, our shared hearts and mind may be our most powerful resource in contending with the Adversary in this fallen world.

Deuteronomy 22-23

(May 13, 2014)
Many will condemn the Mosaic Law (believe me, I hear it frequently as I discuss the Church), and consider Moses the “Terror Prophet.”  But for his time, Moses was quite forward thinking – a result, I believe, of his understanding of the Lord’s love for us.  I mean forward thinking, of course, in the true understanding of the phrase and not in the way it is used today (forward thinking does not equal liberalism).  Moses understood law, but he also understood exception to that law.  He understood that people could fall from a roof, and so protection should be offered.  He understood that women could be overpowered, but also that they could lie to save their lives.  Thus the Mosaic Law dealt with each in a way that addressed correctly the bulk of the circumstances that might arise.  Far from Moses being a Terror Prophet, Moses was clearly inspired of the Lord in revealing His law to the people of Israel.

Helaman 8

(May 13, 2014)
The actions of the unrighteous followers of Gadianton, as described in this chapter, are so similar to the actions of the unrighteous today.  They take a man of God (Nephi in this chapter, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in modern times), and they attempt to whip up public opinion against them.  They use lofty rhetoric (respect for law then, tolerance now) even though their true motivation is corruption and evil (murder then, abortion and gay marriage now).  Until and unless those who follow the commandments of God and believe in His teachings stand up to those who serve Satan, our leaders will be left alone and the wickedness of the world may triumph.  Thus it stands as a duty to each of us to actively defend the faith.

Deuteronomy 19-21

(May 12, 2014)
Reading the Old Testament, it is important to remember that the God of the Old Testament is also the Christ of the New Testament.  That, of course, means that the teachings that seem to make no sense in the light of Christ’s mortal ministry must be understood as originating from the same source.  There are three explanations for the discrepancies, and each one teaches us something different.  I address this to the topic that our eye shall not pity him condemned to death – that feels very contrary to our current understanding of Christ, His teachings, and how we are supposed to feel about those around us (including sinners).

The first potential option is that Moses was the chosen servant of the Lord, but some or many of his decisions were just him using his best judgment.  That means that Moses was trying his best to see that his teachings were not undermined by misplaced pity such that tolerance for sin by way of cultural acceptance became commonplace.

The second potential option is that Moses had this requirement revealed to him and it represented the Lord’s commandment to the people of Israel, but that it was something time and place specific.  There was some aspect of the Israelite nature that required this commandment at this time in order to bring forth the purposes of God (and this is the option that I happen to believe – I believe, at its ultimate core, that righteousness is nothing more or less than bringing forth God’s purposes, and that may also be ultimately all happiness is as well).  Our lesson to take from this would be to follow our current Prophet regardless of concerns with temporal differences with the Lord’s commands in other times and places.

The third and final option is that there is something eternal and necessary about not pitying the guilty.  This means that what Moses taught here (whether inspired or not) was somehow congruent with love one another, bless him that curses you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, if someone takes your coat give them your cloak, turn the other cheek, and so forth.  The only congruence that I can see (and I admit this is very possible) is that Christ taught the individual while Moses is structuring a society – we as people must forgive but the society must enact justice.

Finally, I was struck by the language of these chapters that even in times of war, when the people of Israel were fighting for their survival, they were not to cut down the trees found in the Promised Land that provided food.  They were to keep in mind that they would ultimately be living where they fought, and their destiny was tied to this place.  I immediately drew a parallel with our own battles with sin (in ourselves, or more particularly in others) – do we sometimes engage in scorched earth tactics to purge sin out of our own lives or the lives of others?  Do we end up damaging those who we love (or ourselves), leaving little behind once sin is gone (if it ever goes)?  Israel could follow this commandment because they trusted the Lord to lead them to victory, and so to should we trust in the Lord to fight our battles.

Helaman 7

(May 12, 2014)
I think each of us has, at some time or another, felt like Nephi to cry out that we wished our day was in some other day, where the people had it easier.  But reading 1 Nephi, we see that Nephi didn’t exactly experience a walk in the park (what with all the attempted murders and tying to the mast and so forth).  Nephi, casting his mind back, sees only the good parts of a history he didn’t experience (although the same thing is true with history we do experience – nostalgia is powerful but deceitful).

We are wise to remember that – just because we think that others in other times (the future or the past) have it better, that doesn’t make it true.  And a corollary of this is also true – just because others around us seem to have it better than we do, also doesn’t make it true.  I think that we are given just about a consistent amount of suffering throughout mortality – just more than we can bear, to help prod us to walk hand in Hand with the Savior.  Whomever we see, when they appear happy, may or may not be happy.  He only is happy that has cast his overwhelming burdens on the Lord.

Deuteronomy 18

(May 11, 2014)
The most important language in this chapter is the language concerning following the prophets.  But the most interesting language is the language concerning the importance of not turning to diviners or necromancers or witches or wizards.  As moderners, we tend to think that the only reason the ancients believed in such things was because they were simple-minded and foolish.  But these were people who saw the Lord’s fire and fed on manna.  They had seen true power – they would not have been easily mislead by charlatans performing parlor tricks.

I think that, in a day of understanding and faith, Satan openly performed many false miracles to lead the people into wickedness.  Now, in our modern society, he is more content to not display his power so as to entice the world through reductive materialism into abandoning the Lord and cheating their souls.  But we are unwise to believe that such things have no power.

Helaman 6

(May 11, 2014)
It is uncomfortable to read about the poor and the meek being trampled upon, and how that is a sign of the wicked taking over the government.  I see a government now that tramples on the poor in the very name of caring for the poor.  I see the meek and the righteous being condemned for not bowing to iniquity.  Perhaps that has always been the case, and I am just now recognizing it, but I feel we are leaving a golden age when it was far easier to live according to the commandments because of the social structure in place.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to live through such a time (though I might wish that I had not squandered it the way that I did), and I worry that my children and grandchildren won’t get the same opportunity.

Deuteronomy 16-17

(May 10, 2014)
There is value, I believe, in the requirement that the witnesses that condemn a man must be willing to personally put their hands to him to kill him before any others.  I notice that the worst things that I do in my life are those things that I do that I don’t actually have to do – namely, those things that I can accomplish without necessarily being responsible for them.  If I can create that psychological distance, I managed to deceive myself from time to time into believing that I am not doing anything wrong.

By forcing the witness to put their own hands on the condemned, the Lord through Moses shows us that we are responsible for the things we do.  If we condemn someone, we don’t do it in a way that allows us to keep our hands clean of the results of that condemnation.  If our testimony is false, then we put our hands on the victim and murder them.  Likewise, we are responsible for the consequences (intended and unintended) of our behavior – a frightening prospect that demands nothing less that our wholehearted determination to keep ourselves free from the blood and sins of our generation.

Helaman 5

(May 10, 2014)
What was it about those saved (including a Nephite dissenter) that led them to be rescued from the maw of death and Hell when so many other, similar dissenters went to their graves in open rebellion against God?  For that matter, what is it about each of us that blesses us with the knowledge of the Gospel sufficient to save us from the grasp of sin and death?  For my sins, I should have been cast off without a second thought, and yet I have been blessed to see such miracles in my lifetime as to defy explanation.  Why have I been so blessed when others, seemingly more righteous, have bee only hurt and struggle with the silence of the Heavens?

Deuteronomy 13-15

(May 9, 2014)
Sometimes my eyes almost gaze over the language referring to the bondage of the House of Israel in Egypt – how the people of Israel must remember they were in bondage and delivered, and what that meant for how they treated their servants.  But the lesson there is just as powerful today as it was then.  We, too, were held in bondage in Egypt (and, to a greater or lesser degree, we each still are).  Only through the miraculous deliverance of the Lord were we able to be freed (if, in fact, we are so blessed).

When we see someone encased in sin – when their sins hurt us so painfully – shouldn’t our response be the same as that of Israel?  Shouldn’t we think in our hearts to be merciful, as we too were in bondage in Egypt and in bondage to sin?  I think that is a lesson we each should take to heart before we hold ourselves out as judges to condemn others for the harm they cause us.

Helaman 4

(May 9, 2014)
This chapter is a source of tremendous fear for me, as it represents the culmination of a period of wickedness and apostasy similar to what we are experiencing today.  Countless people are falling away from the Church in the way that countless people dissented from the Church in the times of Helaman.  These dissenters, then and now, join with and stir up those opposed to the work of the Lord.  It is like seeing a train coming at you from the end of the tunnel, and not seeing a way to avoid it.

Deuteronomy 12

(May 8, 2014)
This chapter can be summarized by its final verse – we are to do what the Lord wants us to do.  We are to do no more, and no less, but everything the Lord requires of us.  Once we have done so, the rest of the chapter becomes operative.  We are blessed to enjoy the good things of the Earth according to our desires

Helaman 2-3

(May 8, 2014)
I don’t really know how I feel about these two chapters.  On the one hand, they are signs of hope and a demonstration of the blessings that are held out to those who put their faith in God.  On the other hand, the destruction that I know is coming is haunting my reading of these chapters.  This optimism will crumble in a matter of pages into the rampant scourge of the Gadianton Robbers and the destruction wrought by and upon the unrighteous Nephites.  Do we take comfort in the blessings they received for being righteous, or do we feel terror at the coming judgment that they will face for their forthcoming wickedness?

Deuteronomy 10-11

(May 7, 2014)
The phrase circumcise your heart must have been deliberate, and it includes a great deal of meaning to a culture who so ritualistically practiced actual circumcision.  To circumcise your heart, as an analogy, clearly means to cut away parts of you that are very dear to you.  I cannot imagine undergoing circumcision as an adult, but to think of that process and then to recognize that it is only a type or a shadow of the real circumcision that we each must go through is quite humbling.  Are we each ready to cut away those parts of our heart that we hold dear, no matter how painful the process is?

Helaman 1

(May 7, 2014)
It is always a temptation to put our trust in man, such as when the Lamanites put their trust in Coriantumr.  But our trust must always be properly placed upon God.  Even when it comes to our Priesthood leaders, we do not trust in them because of who they are but rather because we trust the God that placed them where they are.  Any time we look to men for our confidence, we are inevitably going to be disappointed.

Deuteronomy 9

(May 6, 2014)
I think it is not uncommon that we are blessed with a blessing not because of our particular worthiness to receive it but rather because of another’s unworthiness to receive it.  We like to think that we are rewarded for our good behavior, when despite our occasional efforts to do good we are far from worthy of any attention from the Lord on our own merits.  When we are blessed with what we want, we must remember to thank our Father for these things.  When we are not blessed with those things we want, we should likewise thank our Father – this time that others were worthy to receive those blessings.

The second thought was about my journal-keeping.  I am very reluctant to include too many details of my failures and weaknesses in my journal.  I fear that including that sort of information will detract from the wonderful spiritual blessings and events that I have been fortunate enough to have experienced in my life.  But there is value, as Moses taught, of keeping our failures constantly before our eyes – of not releasing them from our own minds so that we know and are sure that we will never repeat the mistakes of our past.  Though my posterity might condemn me for the information that I provide to them of my weaknesses, to not include it would be to take away from the legitimacy of the very events (and Gospel) that I want them to know that I knew.

The final thought I had was related to the Lord overcoming great obstacles in bring the children of Israel into the promised land.  Each of us will face our own obstacles in reaching the Promised Land, and in each and every case those obstacles will seem insurmountable.  And, to be fair, those obstacles are insurmountable...for us.  But with the Lord at our side (or, rather, with us at His side) we can overcome and reach the blessed Promised Land that we seek.

Alma 63

(May 6, 2014)
I always believed that Alma contained so much military detail because Mormon was fascinated with Moroni (so much so that he named his son after the captain), but reading this chapter made me reconsider that thought.  After all, the writings of Moroni’s wars (and the writings of Alma in general) were written by men with one thing in common – they both were military men.  Alma led his people into war, and Helaman led the Stripling Warriors and others.  Shiblon, Nephi son of Helaman, and other writers did not share that military interest.  Thus it is not surprising that we see less military information in their writings (we write what we know – there is a reason that my journal contains little about war and much about books and video games).

Could it be that Mormon loved Moroni because so much information was available to him about Moroni’s life (because the text was written by a friend and fellow military leader of Moroni in Helaman)?  I think that is likely.

Alma 61-62

(May 5, 2014)
I know this isn’t the most spiritual of thoughts, but I wonder whether Pahoran actually was the righteous leader that we suppose.  Did he really get displaced, and wonder whether it was right to fight against the new leadership?  Or did he get the epistle from Moroni and draw the conclusion that it would be helpful to portray himself in that way in order to regain power?  In other words, I wonder how much of a politician Pahoran was.

Deuteronomy 8

(May 4, 2014)
I don’t understand, in my life and the lives of others, why it is so very difficult to remember the blessings of the Lord.  I couldn’t have arrived at this point without numerous miracles in my life both large and small.  Serendipity, fortune, inspiration, and outright Divine intervention were necessary components of every aspect of my life.  And yet, in my trials, I so easily forget the many blessings that I have been given.  I can see why a journal is valuable in helping to strengthen us to remember what the Lord has done for us.

Alma 59-60

(May 4, 2014)
As I read these chapters, I thought to myself for the first time about Mormon’s purpose for including Moroni’s epistle to Pahoran in the text.  After all, he had summarized text frequently, so why would he not likewise summarize this text?  Moroni here had made a mistake – he had been angry with Pahoran without cause – and Mormon could have glossed over all of that with a sentence about Moroni writing to Pahoran for the reason for their lack of support and Pahoran writing back telling Moroni the situation.

Mormon, therefore, included this text for a reason.  It wasn’t, I don’t believe, to condemn Moroni – it is clear that Mormon holds Moroni in very high regard.  Therefore Mormon seems to be pointing out how very determined that Moroni was to do whatever was necessary in preserving the cause of freedom.  That leads to the conclusion that even though Moroni was ultimately wrong in the facts that he was writing about, his underlying motivations were correct.

Deuteronomy 6-7

(May 3, 2014)
In light of the pull that I feel toward (finally) knowing and accepting my role as a small gear in a grand mechanism that is the Plan of Salvation, it is unsurprising that I would find the language of these chapters meaningful and profound to me.  We have such a limited time here on Earth, and then we pass on to the other side and those we leave behind are left to their own devices.  We can serve them in mortality to the best of our ability, but ultimately the best way to bless and serve them is to help them come to know the truth of the Gospel.  This is why a written record is so important (imagine the confusion and difficulties we would now have defending the Church from attacks without the various journals kept at the time!) both for us now (to see God’s Hand) and to those we leave behind (to show God’s Hand to them).

Alma 58

(May 3, 2014)
There is a great deal to be said about the approach taken by Moroni and the others in this chapter.  They prayed diligently for the strength of the Lord to accompany them, and they trusted in His power to deliver them.  But, with that done, they were no less willing to engage in the difficult work required to accomplish the purposes of the Lord.  I think that I too often view prayers as coins thrown in the universal wishing well, cast down and quickly forgotten.  But the power in answer to the prayers of the Lord are so often to be given to magnify our own efforts, rather than supplanting them.

Deuteronomy 5

(May 2, 2014)
The obligation not to covet seems out of place in the preeminent Ten Commandments written by the hand of the Lord on tablets of stone.  After all, we all understand that murder is wrong, but what is so wrong about covetousness?  But we feel like that because we are a people and a culture so consumed with covetousness that we cannot imagine life without it.  But the minor nature of this commandments in our eyes, far from being a reason to disregard it, is rather a call to more strictly heed it as an area of our spiritual development which we have allowed to atrophy.  The vary fact that it seems minor is cause for us to recognize we have lost sight of its significance.

Alma 57

(May 2, 2014)
It should not be surprising, have read more than a few of these, what my thoughts centered on when I read this chapter.  So often when we read this story we center our view on the fact that the Stripling Warriors all survived the battle, but we neglect the fact that all of them – each and every one – were wounded in the battle.  Sometimes we feel very deeply the wounds as we engage in our battle on behalf of the Lord (and, regrettably, sometimes we fight against Him) and sometimes that seems unfair to us.  We believe that as we are on the Lord’s errand, we have the right to demand His protection in all ways.  But we have no promise that we will not be wounded – only that, if we are faithful, we will not be lost.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Deuteronomy 4

(May 1, 2014)
As I write, I am becoming more and more strongly influenced by the desire to pass on my experiences and my testimony to my children and my children’s children.  I have been very much blessed to have received a number of spiritual experiences that have demonstrated to me that the secular world is not all that there is.  I still doubt (why should I doubt), but that doubt is not a rational response but rather an emotional fear that I am able to strangle as I recount the experiences in my life that led me to the testimony that I have today.  It is my hope, in part, that these writings serve a similar role for my posterity.

And speaking of secularism, I was struck by the language of idolatry and worshiping the sun, moon, and stars.  I think that our modern secularism is very much similar to the nature-worship in ages past.  There are those who look to the creation to find meaning and purpose, and do so in order to avoid accepting the commandments of the Creator.  The Sun will not ask you to repent, while the Son constantly invites to you repent.  Atheism, agnosticism, and material determinism are all varying forms of this nature-worship (establishing nature as the eternal, and our creator).

Alma 56

(May 1, 2014)
The 2,000 stripling warriors presents an interesting challenge to us as readers.  There is no question that the miraculous events described are plausible (I have seen enough miracles in my own life to not doubt the Lord’s ability to preserve their lives), but the fact that they knew they would not die and did not doubt that the Lord would deliver them is more interesting.

There are miracles that I have needed in my life, but I routinely remind myself that the miracles only come according to the Lord’s will and at His timetable.  I wonder if that is a mistake, or if I am hedging against the fear that the Lord’s miracles won’t come.  If there is a righteous goal that we have in mind, is it not appropriate to not doubt?  Or should we doubt, not that the Lord has the capacity but that what we might want might not be according to the Lord’s design?  Or does that too represent a deficiency of faith?

I don’t know that I know the answer to that question, but it is a difficult one.  The miracles that I have seen in my early life vanished for a while, but that had more to do with my unworthiness than a lack of faith in miracles (they are coming back as I return to living the way that I should live).  But I want to develop the correct faith – and I don’t know where to resolve the tension between not doubting and be it according to the Lord’s will.