Our Imperfect God

By: Wayfarer
May 18, 2012

When we do a really careful study of what JS taught about God and gods, when we understand the history of God, and when we understand the nature of God as presented by Jesus in what little we have of his authentic teachings, we see that God is not the platonic ideal.  The LDS answer to the theodicy is that God does not have power to overcome free will.  As well God, or a god, is subject to laws:  natural laws of the universe, either a higher or lower law, as stated in section 88.

The idea of a god with limited power is anathema to mainstream christianity.  The idea that God works within law places supernatural miracles within the ‘myth’ category, or at least in the realm of unexplainable technology.  But more importantly, in understanding God’s nature as taught by JS and where LDS theology leads puts a lie to the idea that everything has to perfect if it is associated with God.
The church today teaches perfection whereever it can.  And even in some places that it doesn’t make sense.  Open up Gospel Principles to the honesty chapter.  You will find there an absolute standard of honesty that none of scriptures support.  While I think honesty is an ideal worth living, especially as it comes to personal authenticity, the church has never consistently pursued honesty as it’s first priority.

The story of Nephi and Laban is extremely important in this sense:  that lying or killing for a higher purpose may be permissible by the spirit.  While I don’t like the message, it at least is consistent with church history, and better explains some of the church history than the idea that everything was just exactly as it was supposed to be.

When I presented the lying and deception of Nephi in a church lesson on honesty, no one in the congregation had an answer for it. It just didn’t make sense to them given the lesson material.  The lesson, flat out, taught that lying is never acceptable.  Again, that would be great if true, but the church has never practiced this.  Deception continues, and I do not mean this as a negative, because it serves the church’s mission to continue to deceive, to cover up, and to provide ‘milk before meat’.  The problem with teaching a principle of perfection is that members are never prepared to receive meat when it becomes apparent to them.

Apologetics is an attempt to keep the milk alive, to use the metaphor. I believe this does members a disservice because they (1) do not learn the truth, and (2) are not prepared for the truth. Hence, when the truth comes out, very active, true believing members go completely negative in a hurry. The cognitive dissonance is just too painful.

Now after 180 years, the church has painted itself into a corner with hard-line dualistic statements of  ”its all true or the biggest fraud in history.”  It’s neither.  The truth of the church is in restoring the idea that God continues to reveal His will through the heart and mind of those who listen to that still, small voice.  God is not to be found in the creeds and orthodoxy, but rather, in the one to one personal experience that we call testimony.  And this testimony is not the rote version so familiar to us, but rather the discovery, line upon line and precept upon precept, that God is nearer to us as humans than we think.  The truth of the church is that we have a divine nature explained by a plan of salvation that uniquely lays out pre-mortal existence and the possibility that all may be in a realm of glory.  These things cannot be proven, and truly are unknowable in logical terms, but they can be felt.  To know that God is one of us leads us to a higher knowledge that we can be one with god in many unique ways. God is not so distant, but as one of us, fully knows our weakness and has more compassion than we possibly can realize.

Such intimate knowledge of God is beyond apologetics and beyond words.  In fact, I feel that apologetics continues to try to make literal and perfect and perfectly harmonious a set of concepts in scripture that were never meant to be harmonized.  It’s a disservice to the spiritual nature of scriptural history to literalize scripture.  When we embrace the myth and fiction as such, we begin to realize the God that is beyond all realization.

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41 Responses to Our Imperfect God

  1. Bradley on May 18, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Scripture is a means by which God speaks to us, but the message is different for each person. That makes literalizing scripture less feasible than nailing Jello to a wall.

    When you realize that each of us has instant access to the Most High God, the Big Cheese of all creation, that says something special about life in general and humans in particular.

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  2. Mike S on May 18, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    Now after 180 years, the church has painted itself into a corner with hard-line dualistic statements of ”its all true or the biggest fraud in history.” It’s neither.

    This is the statement that struck home with me the most. Everything is shades of grey. Pretending things are all white or not white is a great disservice.

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  3. Chris on May 19, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    Although God is perfect, the Church is not. When Church leaders chose to speak honestly about Church history, we will discover that prophets can be very flawed, just a prophets were in the Bible, and that they can make some serious mistakes. I would hope that as a Church we will come to extol the greatness of our God more and than glory of our prophets less.

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  4. hawkgrrrl on May 19, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I like that there is a big distinction in our theology between “perfect” and “perfected.”

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  5. Course Correction on May 19, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    “To know that God is one of us leads us to a higher knowledge that we can be one with god in many unique ways. God is not so distant, but as one of us, fully knows our weakness and has more compassion than we possibly can realize.”

    This concept of God is much more affirmative than the Santa Claus God who rewards us when we’re good–except when He doesn’t.

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  6. Bonnie on May 19, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    I think there is a big distinction between discipline and inability. That God chooses not to infringe on our free agency does not necessarily limit his perfection. We are told that he is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I haven’t seen any reason to quibble with any of those.

    And although as a young person I struggled with the apparent dichotomy of rules applied and then permission given to suspend them. I don’t anymore (thank you parenting) because I see reason to occasionally suspend the rules when I see a greater good to be accomplished.

    I really bristle at calling “milk before meat” deception. That seems quite disingenuous. Do you really want everyone to have all information, knowing full well that it’s often too heavy for the bearer? Would you really discuss the mechanics and permutations of sex with your 6-year-old? Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn line upon line and to earn what they learn by searching. That’s not deception.

    The truth of the church is in restoring the idea that God continues to reveal His will through the heart and mind of those who listen to that still, small voice. God is not to be found in the creeds and orthodoxy, but rather, in the one to one personal experience that we call testimony. And this testimony is not the rote version so familiar to us, but rather the discovery, line upon line and precept upon precept, that God is nearer to us as humans than we think. The truth of the church is that we have a divine nature explained by a plan of salvation that uniquely lays out pre-mortal existence and the possibility that all may be in a realm of glory. These things cannot be proven, and truly are unknowable in logical terms, but they can be felt. To know that God is one of us leads us to a higher knowledge that we can be one with god in many unique ways. God is not so distant, but as one of us, fully knows our weakness and has more compassion than we possibly can realize.

    Such intimate knowledge of God is beyond apologetics and beyond words.

    This defines the limits of apologetics, not the limits of God. Well-said, but I differ 180 degrees with your interpretation of why.

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  7. Howard on May 19, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    I have deeply pondered what it means to literally tell the truth. It isn’t easy to do even when it is your sincere intent to do so because there are often many truths making full disclosure difficult to accomplish and attempting to often approaches the boringly absurd. The answer can be narrowed by considering one’s audience and leaving the rest out but is that really literal truth? Today people often say that I am painfully truthful but my answers leave out all the mundane and boringly absurd. My simple standard is; I am telling the truth when I am attempting to be honest and I am not attempting to deceive. The church is faced with this same problem, most doctrinal issues are comprised of many truths from multiple sources and like parables perhaps contain many levels of understanding. However, the church does not share my standard sometimes instead of simplifying they obviously choose to deceive. In addition they are always mindful of creating and reinforcing the impression that they broker our relationship with deity and in doing so they lie. One of the reasons that we are not lead to greater levels of spirituality by the church is because higher levels of spirituality leave the church and all of it’s temporal trappings and power behind as we enjoy a one on one spiritual relationship with God and a oneness connection to others who have achieved a similar level of connection. Today church members are left marching in place while “prophets” reveal mundane rules instead of the meat to be found in the sealed portion of the plates that we’ve been told are coming. But today as the Spirit is being poured out upon the world and many outside the church are achieving these spiritual relationships while the well intended Mormon faithful concentrate on their pharisaical dos and don’t list, waring a with shirt, dressing modestly with cap sleeves and doing their home or visiting teaching on time. The parable of the ten virgins comes strongly to mind.

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  8. Howard on May 19, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    white shirt

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  9. Wayfarer on May 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Chris and Hawkgrrl, to say that god is perfect or perfected has to mean something, but what? We read, “be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect”. Is that where we get the idea that God is perfect (or perfected)? The problem is that the greek here doesn’t mean ‘perfect’ as in flawless or omni-whatever. It was meant to be ‘complete’, as in the ‘opposite of partial’. This word is used in Matthew 5 and Corintians to compare partiality in our dealings with people or in our knowledge to something more complete or impartial.

    the point of the post is to understand that our definition of god differs from the ideal of perfection. While this is a difficult concept in the face of traditional christianity, it does two things: it solves the problem of the theodicy, and it describes what it means for us to become [like] god.

    Bonnie, perhaps the problem with the word deception is the negative connotation, which I don’t mean here. Is there a better word that conveys a position of being less than truthful (the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth)?

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  10. Bonnie on May 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Howard, I am completely puzzled how the church is trying to broker our relationship with God. I create a relationship with God through prayer, fasting, service, temple worship, and obedience to the commandments and covenants I’ve made. I have an opportunity to exercise these things, be strengthened, and to help others through my fellowship with likeminded others in the church. Pres. Packer, if he were so inclined, might be beating his head against a wall to read your comment, because he is the biggest defender of family time there is. Every time someone comes to him and suggests that the church should do this or that great wonderful thing, he tells them NO because people need the time and space to be with their families. I’m just at a loss how anyone could feel that the church stands between the individual and Christ. The PURPOSE of the church is to bring souls to Christ. Please elaborate.

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  11. Bonnie on May 19, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    Wayfarer, we disagree on several points, so the definition of deception is the least concern. I don’t see that the LDS resolution of the theodicy is that God does not have power to overcome free will. Please, see the very long smackdown Job received from God on this very issue. He emerged from that “laying his hand on his mouth” and I would imagine we would too. I have no idea where you got the impression that the LDS church teaches this ludicrous idea. To be subject to laws does not mean that one does not have the power to supersede them. My choice to be subject to the terms of my granddaughter’s play in no way describes the extent of my superhuman powers.

    LDS doctrine teaches that everything associated with God IS perfect, or the closer it is to God the more perfect it is, as perfection is a process we’re undergoing, not just an end. I don’t know how else anyone could interpret Mormon’s words shared so perfectly by Moroni (7:13-18) – if it’s good it’s from God, if it’s not good it’s from the devil. God is not responsible for imperfection; that’s a function of our life in a mortal sphere and the choice made in Eden provided us this wonderful opportunity to live in a fallen place to learn.

    Because we understand that the temple resolves the theodicy, we understand a line-upon-line development. It is we who are growing, not God.

    I don’t find a connect point anywhere in your essay, because I think we parted ways in the first sentence. I’m really not concerned with the Platonic ideal because I don’t think God is limited by a form like that.

    Anyway, peace, love, and happiness, but we disagree.

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  12. Howard on May 20, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Bonnie,
    The church claims to be the only true church, makes a proprietary claim of access to the Holy Spirit and afterlife benefits then attaches pharisaical worthiness requirements to acquiring these benefits which are brokered by through your Bishop and SP under the direction of the church via. the Handbook.

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  13. Wayfarer on May 20, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Bonnie, I can tell that my words are inadequate to express an idea. I think choosing to dismiss the idea because my words are inadequate may be premature, but that is your choice.

    My mistake was using ‘perfection’ in multiple senses. I maintain that God is not the platonic ideal of perfection. Indeed, in the original, greek word that was traslated in KJV as ‘perfect’, god is indeed ‘complete’.

    You mentioned something about god not having to have the ‘form’ of the platonic ideal of perfection, but in fact, the ideal is beyond forms. Christianity adopted this ideal perfection of god, simultaneously saying that he was beyond form, and omnipotent, and omniscient, and omnibenevolent. This was largely a neoplatonic apostate thinking introduced into the church.

    As the church today tends to want to appear compatible with mainstream christianity, the differences in the definition of god are often downplayed. Sure, we believe and proclaim that god is an exalted man, with a tangible body; but the idea that ‘god progresses’, sometimes taught in the earlier part of the church, has recently been rejected.

    My ‘ludicrous idea’ that god is not the platonic ideal comes from first, that god is not beyond forms, but has a form. Second, in Section 88, God operates entirely according to law. Therefore, the concept of omnipotence, in that god can violate law if he desires, is not part of LDS teaching — and therefore, LDS teaching differs from the mainstream of christianity — and thank God it does.

    I would hope that reasonable discourse is possible here — I am new to this forum. I have no issue with correcting my understanding of things; I am frequently wrong, and embrace correction. But if I am misunderstood and dismissed thereby, i’m not sure that’s the most productive way to dialogue.

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  14. Bonnie on May 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Howard, the church does not make a proprietary claim to access to the Holy Spirit (ALL are given the spirit of Christ), and it does not make proprietary claim to afterlife benefits. That’s what’s so cool about the whole plan! Read D&C 76 and 138 – everyone is taught the LORD’s plan and has an equal opportunity to accept and reject. Judgement is suspended for a long, long time while things even out justly. I know of know faith that is so broad in its sharing of afterlife benefits. Now if someone doesn’t share our outlook about whether or not it’s all true, then it doesn’t matter what we think anyway! You’re talking about temple recommend worthiness when you discuss brokering, and I guess if you don’t accept the plan as laid out by the church, the temple wouldn’t be meaningful to you anyway. We are a proxy church. Jesus brokered our salvation. Priests brokered sacrifices prior to the atonement. Priesthood brokers covenants now. If you’re bothered by brokering, there are a lot of faiths that don’t include that metaphor for Christ. But for those of us who aren’t bothered by them, we rejoice in the reminder that Jesus stands between us and judgment.

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  15. Bonnie on May 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Wayfarer, I have given offense, and I’m deeply sorry. You are most welcome in this forum and I am a new contributor myself, the least of these. I LOVE dialogue. I am a user of too strong language; people tell me all the time. If you were sitting across from me with tea you wouldn’t be offended because I smile all the time and I’m likable. (That’s code for “you would feel very comfortable that you are smarter and more well-spoken than I, plus I gesture excitedly.) :D

    As I understand Plato (and I don’t well, because I think gnosticism is a damnable heresy – more on that in a second), he was concerned with the problem of universals. You see, that is the essence of the gospel from time immemorial: that God reveals himself to man, that man has form, that that form is in the image of God’s, and that this form is USEFUL for the exercise of faith. So the reason that we don’t connect over the issue of Plato isn’t that I disagree that God doesn’t conform to Plato (He doesn’t); it’s that I think trying to conform God to Plato is a pointless exercise.

    As I’ve already alluded, the theodicy is the foundational question of all mortality, but contrary to those “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” Greeks, we do not come to know God by exploring the world of ideas. We come to know God by digging ditches, caring for babies, building houses, growing flowers (I happen to think this is one of the best ways), and enduring the physical world. “By the sweat of thy brow” and through “thy sorrow and thy conception” – we return to God. It wasn’t a curse, this mortal form: it was the means to return. Trying to disengage from the physical was the groundwork for the apostasy, because a physical Christ was too much to accept.

    We see through the lens we have: mortality, and it’s dark (or to better translate, we see through a bronze mirror, which you can’t see through, you see a reflection of yourself, wavy, hazy, and backwards.) I love Paul. Anyway, we see the God that reflects our present place. One day, as Jared, we see God clearly, but it’s by grappling with the physical first. We have to overcome ourselves and this bronze mirror set of eyes. God is not limited, incomplete, imperfect by having a form (which fits your statement about Plato) but where you go from there loses me. Exactly how does that reflect that the church is disserving people and being dishonest?

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  16. Howard on May 20, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Bonnie,
    You seem to be sliding around on this one.  The church touts the “gift of the Holy Ghost” as an implied  LDS proprietary product.  They imply that this gift is somehow different and better than other’s access to the Spirit.   In you last comment you were puzzled as to how the church brokers now you’re offering examples supporting brokering.  The point is that all of this administrative and pharisaical overhead distracts and detracts from our learning to strengthen our spiritual ability to commune with deity.

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  17. Bonnie on May 20, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Howard, the gift of the Holy Ghost isn’t a proprietary product any more than playing concertos is proprietary. It’s available to anyone who meets the conditions of development. People who HAVE the gift of the Holy Ghost by virtue of their confirmation often don’t USE the gift of the Holy Ghost as much as those who are enlivened by the spirit of Christ. It’s not proprietary to the church.

    Sliding around? Maybe. You implied that brokering is a negative thing, an interference between the individual and God. I merely described the brokering that does occur as one of the greatest gifts of the gospel. Two sides of the elephant, perhaps, but I’m not calling the elephant names! :)

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  18. Wayfarer on May 20, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Bonnie, I’m not offended at all, and appreciate your reply. It’s helping me articulate this.

    I do think there are several problems with the concept of the “ideal” god, for which we use the term ‘perfect’ in a sense other than ‘complete’.

    1. Theodicy. The ideal god has never sinned, never changed, is always all-powerful, so knowing that he knows every outcome of every choice made by every being at every point in time ever. Such a being would know ahead of time that given evil person will cause the senseless death of millions of innocents, and yet does nothing to prevent it. Free will only explains the actions of the bad-guy. that the bad-guy kills millions, thus taking away their free will makes god an accomplice of violating his own ‘policy’ of free will. It isn’t that god willingly does not circumvent free will, god cannot: it is the law of the universe in which we live, and god cannot break that law.

    2. The concept of the ideal and powerful god puts unrealistic pressure on those who believe that god’s hand is in every moment of the church’s origin, history, and operations today. There is a strong contingent of church leaders who preach infallibility: Ezra Taft Benson with the 14 fundamentals, those who continue to cite this, and those who whitewash church history to remove inconvient truths that aren’t edifying. God’s dealings with mannkind have NEVER been clean in at least the biblical record, why should we expect them to be in the church today?

    3. That god is truly one of us makes our discourse with him more real. As I closed the essay, setting aside myth and fantasy that makes god unreal can impede our ability to deal with the real god. my sense is that god is closer, more involved, and more compassionate than one might think. Each of us has our own experience with god — and our experiences seem to be unique to each individual. For me, this says god is not distant and other as would be the ideal god.

    4. that god is subject to laws is consistent with the existential leanings of mormonism (section 131: there is no such thing as immaterial matter). This not only repudiates the concept of an ideal god, it says that the daily acts of doing you mention in your reply are what make us like god. god acts. we act. god creates. we create. god serves. we serve. a true religion of god would be one that fully practices its godliness daily — and in our perspective — that’s work.

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  19. FireTag on May 20, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Bonnie:

    Maybe the following link to one of my old posts can explain the problem some of us have with the temptation to “broker” even within the church.

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/05/14/brokering-the-kingdom-is-missing-the-point/

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  20. Howard on May 20, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Bonnie,
    From lds.org: “All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel. However, the fulness of the blessings given through the Holy Ghost are available only to those who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and remain worthy.

    After a person is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders lay their hands on the person’s head and, in a sacred priesthood ordinance, confirm him or her a member of the Church. As part of this ordinance, called confirmation, the person is given the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    The gift of the Holy Ghost is different from the influence of the Holy Ghost. Before baptism, a person can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time and through that influence can receive a testimony of the truth. After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a person has the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead if he or she keeps the commandments.”

    This clearly an attempt to market and broker an LDS brand of the spirit tied to worthiness requirements.

    For gospel newbies brokering can be a helpful feature just as training wheels can be helpful to riding a bicycle but the training wheels are later removed because they soon inhibit the rider. Follow the prophet? No! Follow the Spirit and if you do you may be surprised to be lead in some new directions and taught lessons you have never heard in church! Public health recommendations are designed for the masses but what is healthy for you might be something quite different. Mormon prophets offer up what they are inspired to believe is good for members in general but the Spirit will custom tutor you if you well let him once you learn how to receive him. But this process makes you your own prophet rendering brokering obsolete.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on May 20, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Wayfarer & Fire Tag – I just removed the parts Wayfarer didn’t mean to include in his comment, then the ensuing discussion of the same. Partway through doing this I thought “Hey I’m doing the same thing the post is about – trying to make something more clear and less confusing by editing it so that it is as if it never happened. Making it flawless, when it didn’t really happen that way.”

    Wayfarer: “the idea that ‘god progresses’, sometimes taught in the earlier part of the church, has recently been rejected” I have a hard time agreeing with you that it was rejected. I do think it was de-emphasized, to our theological detriment, in order to bridge the gap with mainstream Christianity. IMO, it’s the crown jewels of the whole faith. Not only does it reduce the distance between us and God, but it makes a God whose existence and purpose we can almost comprehend.

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  22. Douglas on May 20, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating…it seems that those that LIVE the Gospel tend to have the least issues with its “truthfulness”. I get the impression that those that endlessly wrangle about Church history or meanings of translations of scriptures and/or related works are looking for excuses not to believe. Just save yourself the trouble and heed Grand Master Yoda’s dictum…”DO..or DO NOT…there is NO try!”

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  23. FireTag on May 20, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    Hawk:

    Editing was my plan as well once I could confirm what Wayfarer needed edited. :D

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  24. Bonnie on May 20, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    FT: THAT was beautiful. I loved reading it. And I agree! Except that there is a fundamental difference between the dispensation at the meridian of time and the dispensation at the fullness of time. Jesus is, like any leader, like any healer, going to apply the opposing doctrine to the one that is out of sync in order to bring balance. In the meridian of time, the medicine needed was a democratizing of access to the gifts of the spirit precisely because of the abused and apostate shell of the brokers. In Joseph’s time, however, what was needed was order for the chaos of democratized spiritualism, and the structure of the priesthood and the church was key. Even in Jesus’ mortal time, there was a need for shepherds, and that’s the kind of brokers I’m talking about. Parents. Leaders. Healed healers (oh, I thank you for that, it’s beautiful.)

    –Seminary graduation, just got back–

    I was going to come back and respond to each of your numbered points, but I agree so wholeheartedly with Douglas that I’m going to go have pudding (be with my family) and respond later. Frankly, it did not surprise me, but the lack of willingness to comment on a positive post about the things that really matter – one-on-one service that makes the gospel mean something – makes me think this discussion borders on pointless. The proof IS is in the doing, and Yoda is right.

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  25. FireTag on May 20, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Bonnie:

    But I think it is precisely the point that there was NO difference in what was needed in the meridian of time and the end times. Indeed, in Restoration scripture (and perhaps this is a difference between those of us who do not embrace the Temple rites under the same theology as do LDS) expressed in JS’s expansion of Genesis is that SATAN THINKS WE NEED A BROKER TO GET US TOGETHER WITH GOD. That is what leads him to reject our agency at first, because we WILL OTHERWISE mess up.
    Jesus kept trying to remove Himself from between the Spirit and us, just as a good parent wants the kids to go farther than the parents have gone. I suspect, Satan, while as a son of the morning” regarded us as never good enough not to need him, and so eventually came to hate us because we didn’t.

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  26. Howard on May 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    Douglas,
    How do you know who is living the gospel and who isn’t?

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  27. Bob on May 21, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    I think Howard correct in saying the Church offers a “proprietary product(s)”. I also agree with Bonnie, thw Church states it offers It’s product to all.

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  28. Bob on May 21, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    #25: FireTag,
    On T&S, there is a sermon by Elder Oats, where he says:
    “But our war to secure agency was won. The test in this postwar mortal estate is not to secure choice but to use it—to choose good instead of evil so that we can achieve our eternal goals. In mortality, choice is a method, not a goal”.
    I am not sure I am reading him right, but he seems to being saying that our last “free choice” was to come to earth and then obey(???)

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  29. Bonnie on May 21, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Ok. All the cosmic tumblers of our personal universe are realigned and I can return to the conversation.

    Wayfarer: I’ll answer your points in order.

    I do think there are several problems with the concept of the “ideal” god, for which we use the term ‘perfect’ in a sense other than ‘complete’.

    1. Theodicy. The ideal god has never sinned, never changed, is always all-powerful, so knowing that he knows every outcome of every choice made by every being at every point in time ever. Such a being would know ahead of time that given evil person will cause the senseless death of millions of innocents, and yet does nothing to prevent it. Free will only explains the actions of the bad-guy. that the bad-guy kills millions, thus taking away their free will makes god an accomplice of violating his own ‘policy’ of free will. It isn’t that god willingly does not circumvent free will, god cannot: it is the law of the universe in which we live, and god cannot break that law.

    A. There is a HUGE difference between he has never sinned (which we do not teach) and he does not currently sin (which we teach.) One does not develop amnesia with perfection. One can relate to imperfect beings after achieving perfection.

    B. Whoa, this life is so not everything. So we die. We move through a door. Without the resurrection and atonement, death is horrendous. With them, it’s nothing. I am writing a blog post now called “A Useful Illusion” and that’s what I think life is. God doesn’t have to make everything fair now, nor is that in our best interest. It will, however, eventually be fair. Death isn’t the worst thing. Sin is.

    2. The concept of the ideal and powerful god puts unrealistic pressure on those who believe that god’s hand is in every moment of the church’s origin, history, and operations today. There is a strong contingent of church leaders who preach infallibility: Ezra Taft Benson with the 14 fundamentals, those who continue to cite this, and those who whitewash church history to remove inconvient truths that aren’t edifying. God’s dealings with mannkind have NEVER been clean in at least the biblical record, why should we expect them to be in the church today?

    Why does the church have to be perfect if God is? Isn’t that part of the test?

    3. That god is truly one of us makes our discourse with him more real. As I closed the essay, setting aside myth and fantasy that makes god unreal can impede our ability to deal with the real god. my sense is that god is closer, more involved, and more compassionate than one might think. Each of us has our own experience with god — and our experiences seem to be unique to each individual. For me, this says god is not distant and other as would be the ideal god.

    I agree that our experience is personal. For me, a perfect God is trustworthy, and a formerly mortal God is empathetic. I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

    4. that god is subject to laws is consistent with the existential leanings of mormonism (section 131: there is no such thing as immaterial matter). This not only repudiates the concept of an ideal god, it says that the daily acts of doing you mention in your reply are what make us like god. god acts. we act. god creates. we create. god serves. we serve. a true religion of god would be one that fully practices its godliness daily — and in our perspective — that’s work.

    Precisely! But this doesn’t repudiate the concept of an ideal God. He follows rules, he works – this makes him too pedestrian for our tastes?

    What I love about the Mormon concept of God is that he is perfect but attainable. He tells us that perfection is a process and tells us to be perfect by participating in the process. I am perfect. Right now. I am perfect because I am on the road to perfection, just as I am a pianist before I have perfected concertos. Isn’t divinity divine?

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  30. Bonnie on May 21, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Howard:

    This clearly an attempt to market and broker an LDS brand of the spirit tied to worthiness requirements.

    Stating that receipt of the spirit is tied to worthiness does not imply an attempt to broker the spirit. It’s just a fact. If you practice the piano, you can hear off-notes better. If you live in alignment with the plan laid out to promote spiritual sensitivity, you will feel the spirit. This isn’t a great conspiracy to broker your relationship with Christ. You are at the wheel, and you are free to drive.

    I get that you want to structure your own worthiness standards and that what a prophet tells you is the way to do it offends your independence. That’s a difference of opinion between us. My willingness to listen to a prophet doesn’t imply that I’m still running around with training wheels. It means that I accept an early warning system. You can make fun of my reliance on prophets, you can feel that they are unable to speak beyond the personal, you can insist that they stand between me and Christ and I will ignore you, because I trust them. Live and let live, I say. I know what I felt when Thomas S. Monson said that what we need more than anything else is a spirit of gratitude. I felt overpoweringly that this was not a soft principle, but something that would literally change the world. I will not apologize for believing him.

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  31. Bonnie on May 22, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    FT – I thought your statements were very profound regarding why Satan hates us so much. I agree wholeheartedly. I also agree that Christ does as little to get between us and the Father as possible, trying very hard to be invisible.

    And I agree that in many ways what was given in the meridian of time was the same gospel as in the restoration, even if I see it playing a different emphasis at times. What was your point about the church brokering in those cases? I still don’t see the church brokering, then or now.

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  32. Howard on May 22, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    Stating that receipt of the spirit is tied to worthiness does not imply an attempt to broker the spirit. Bonnie you’re missing the point; the better LDS version of the spirit is being sold as ONLY being available through LDS suppliers and certain worthiness conditions apply. This IS brokering! It implies that you cannot get this product on your own, you can only get it through us. I get that you want to structure your own worthiness standards… No I don’t. There are NO worthiness standards for communing with the Spirit, he will communicate with anyone who will listen. Did Jesus Christ turn away from the adulteress or the criminal on the cross because they were unworthy? No! So why would the Spirit turn away? He doesn’t. It’s a lie just like implying Joseph was monogamous is a lie. It’s a lie that reinforces obedience to the church (your broker). You must do as the church says or something bad will happen; the spirit will flee and you will be left all alone. This suggestion spoken by those you believe in makes it a self fulfilling prophecy further reinforcing the lie.

    I’m saying one is impeded in their spiritual growth to the extent they follow the prophet instead of following the Spirit because following the Spirit is tutoring with lessons custom tailored just for you. It is how we progress beyond today’s mundane prophet speak. If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

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  33. Bonnie on May 22, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    Well Howard, I may be missing your point, but I’m fairly comfortable with my searching on the point. We can agree to disagree.

    If you don’t like the idea of inputting any effort to achieve blessings, you would probably be more comfortable in an other faith, one that embraces a works-less faith. I really don’t see the point of continuing an assault against the beliefs of a group that believes we bring what we have to the table of the sacrament. And if you don’t like the LDS version of the spirit, the lovely thing is you don’t have to accept it.

    Jesus doesn’t turn away from everyone, but he also doesn’t ordain them to further work in the kingdom. He didn’t forgive the woman taken in adultery because she didn’t repent – he simply said he didn’t condemn her to an immediate death. Nor was the thief saved without repentance; he was merely promised that he would not languish in prison because he desired to be taught.

    We will have to most firmly disagree that one is impeded in spiritual growth to the extent one follows the prophet. I don’t set my brain aside when he raises a warning voice.

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  34. Bonnie on May 22, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Jesus doesn’t turn away from *anyone* but he doesn’t ordain them to further work in the kingdom *unless they want to work.*

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  35. Howard on May 22, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    If you don’t like the idea of inputting any effort to achieve blessings, you would probably be more comfortable in an other faith, one that embraces a works-less faith. Bonnie, this is a diversion it has nothing to do with anything I’ve said. But since you brought it up, I do work, I work toward enlightenment and I follow the Spirit and that is NOT an easy of lazy path. I am not “continuing an assault” against LDS beliefs I am seeing them clearly by removing the spin and lies that underpin them with the goal of putting them in perspective. I’m not arguing repentance isn’t required, I believe it is for our own good but I know it isn’t required to communicate with the Spirit, he doesn’t turn his back or flee because you haven’t repented yet.

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  36. Phoenxi on May 23, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Howard

    I would just wonder if you believe in everything in the Book of Mormon, because it clearly shows that the gift of the Holy Ghost (different than the power of the Holy Ghost) only comes from priesthood authority and baptism. If you accept the Book of Mormon and D&C as true, than I wonder how you couple that with your implication that the church is somehow being malicious or false in its doctrinal assertions of the necessity of priesthood authority. I don’t mean to question your faith, more just a clarification of your belief.

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  37. Howard on May 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Phoenxi,
    I don’t believe everything in any book nor should you. I believe the BoM is divinely inspired fiction. There is a big difference between authority and power, it’s possible to have either one without the other. I believe the authority and the gift being discussing here amounts to official permission to engage divine powers within the LDS community under certain prescribed rules. If you want to perform an LDS ordinance you must have LDS authority to do so, this is all about authority not power. But if you want to commune with and walk in the Spirit you must learn how to do this which is about power not authority, ordination doesn’t teach how nor is it required.

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  38. Phoenix on May 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Howard,
    Thank you for your clarification. While I agree with you that power in the spirit does not come automatically because of some kind of authority, one must consider how power in the spirit comes at all. You acknowledge we must learn how to communicate from the spirit. Using such terminology implies that there is a method or a way to have spiritual power and that this way is not automatic i.e. we don’t just stumble upon it one day. There is a method and every method has its rules. Those rules must be made known to us or there is no way to gain that spiritual power. This is where prophets come in.

    While you may ridicule such a concept, it’s self-evident that God doesn’t reveal Himself to every single person; else wise there would be no atheism. Furthermore, its plain that simply relying upon one’s own wits to find God has not brought humanity greater spiritual power, as the various opinions about how to even be spiritual are actually contradicting and therefore do not produce a united successful narrative. (Our conversation shows this to be true, as my personal spirituality has led me to believe that I should believe everything in the Book of Mormon, while yours has not).Thus, as history has shown God has worked through prophets to reveal those spiritual rules so we all grow closer to Him. The very existence of the Bible and Book of Mormon show this to be true. While it is true that various people have found spiritual power without prophets, they are in a very small minority. God wants everyone to have access, so He has sent those messengers to help us out. In other words, because He loves everyone He reveals the rules of spiritual power to all through prophets, not just the few who have some sort of spiritual advantage.

    Now while the prophet subject is not fully answered to your satisfaction, I want to come back to the idea of spiritual rules. By acknowledging that there is a way to communicate with the spirit and have it in our lives and therefore a method of doing so, there must also be a way not do so. For example, it is through the method of arithmetic that we know 2+2=4. However one can disobey that rule and find that 2+2=5 and thus receive an incorrect answer. Thus if spirituality has a method, one can disobey that method and lose or forfeit spiritual power. As human beings, we seem to excel in disobeying the rules of spirituality and thus we as a whole are devoid of spiritual power. This is the beauty of the teachings of Christ (I cite Him because He is the ultimate authority on spiritual matters, and you have cited Him yourself). If we do as He said, we will correct our behavior and follow Him. Well He made it clear that in order to fully heal from disobeying spiritual law, we need to have ordinances such as baptism (John 3:5). However, He and His apostles made it equally clear that such ordinances can’t be made available unless they are administered by someone having authority from God. Thus it is necessary for the priesthood to exist.
    It is in this way that spiritual authority and power becomes united. Both can exist independent of each other, yes, but they become the most powerful together. Through the two, not only can individuals maintain spiritual closeness with God, they can also heal themselves when they deviate from following the rules of spiritual power through spiritual ordinances. Thus the teachings of the prophets don’t constrict ones ability to have the spirit, they can actually enhance it. If used properly the ordinances of the gospel become powerful symbols of one’s dedication to God and deepen their spiritual power.

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  39. Howard on May 25, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Phoenix,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree with much of what you wrote, disagree with a little of it but mostly I think we have different views so I will try to explain mine. I believe that access to divine powers are equally available to people of all faiths and spiritual paths around the globe. I also believe that the priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith. That may sound contradictory to you, but to me it isn’t. Without official “authority” and a like minded community who accept that authority few people who are not already on a mystic path will be motivated to seek out and attempt to practice the power of God. By formalizing rituals they become normal and accepted by those sharing the same belief so the shy and unsure gain confidence by watching others so they can eventually perform these rituals themselves. In this way many are brought closer to God. But there is a problem, so far all we have is “authority” and ritual which is a symbol, none of this includes God’s power. The power of God is accessed by one’s personal connection to God not by ordination which is a ritual, a symbol and perhaps a right of passage. If ordination was all that is required an 11 year old boy would not be able to heal someone but the same 12 year old boy who just received the priesthood would be able to heal or if you prefer to use the Melchizedek Priesthood follow the same boy to the day he becomes an Elder at 19. So instead of exercising power what ordination enables is the performance of rituals; pass the sacrament, baptize, etc. Striving to be sinless and worthy is an admirable step toward connecting with God because shows sincere intent but if you haven’t developed the skill to hear, feel and follow the Spirit what’s the point? Unfortunately as the church has become more pharisaical it and we focus more on the rules; the dos and don’t list, doing our H/T or V/T on time rather than focusing on connecting directly with God and as a result the modern church now thinks the tiniest perceptible feeling or thought is all the Spirit has to offer today, I guess he’s old and tired. But this isn’t true, I know many outside the church who enjoy “miracles” of the magnitude enjoyed during the early days of the restored church without any ordination at all, this is the POWER of God. So power is one thing and authority is another and as we agree one can have either without the other. “Authority” does not mean if you don’t have it you are barred from exercising God’s power, it means if you don’t have it you are barred from performing rituals in the LDS church. Beyond that this authority is placebo power in action, because you believe it has power, it does. Because people believe the dollar has value is does, even though the US is technically bankrupt! This is the power of belief. To the extent the church focuses on authority and rules it looses the POWER of God and unfortunately that is where the church is today, it retains the authority but it has lost the power. Spiritual authority and spiritual power are united only through personal connection to God. How does one personally access the power of God? There are many ways but most end up communing with God through some type of meditation. I like David O. McKay’s method of early morning meditative prayer, next concentrate on following and amplifying the spirit’s signal, then once you verify it is the Spirit you’re in communication with follow the Spirit even when the road gets bumpy or the path seem unlikely. My life has been totally guided by the Spirit since 2003 it has been both very difficult because I’m learning and very rewarding because of what I learned. You’re right we don’t just stumble upon how to do it so the church should put much more emphasis on teaching this, few actually feel a “burning in the bosom” so let’s have open discussions that share the many other ways to sense the Spirit and advanced discussions on the many ways that communication with the Spirit increases in sophistication over time as we learn from an elementary conformation or not up to and including two way conversations! While it is true God does not reveal Himself to every single person, acquiring the skills to communicate with him certainly increases one’s chances. I think looking for a united successful narrative misses the point, God customizes our learning to fit our knowledge and frame of reference and he teaches in a series of stair stepped metaphorical paradigms. I believe and I think we agree there are many inspired paths because there were many different Prophets and they in turn they appeal to different types of people resulting in many different kinds congregations with varying beliefs but all pointing to a higher power some through Christ some not but all are God’s marketing channels. You revere the teachings of Christ and so do I and the church professes to as well but where are the beatitudes? In practice I see a pharisaical church still stuck on enforcing the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments!

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  40. Phoenix on May 25, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Howard,

    I really liked your post and I generally agree with it. I completely agree that the power of God doesn’t necessarily depend on authority. Hence the reason why women or people of other faiths can work just as great as miracles as any prophet or priesthood holder. I too have met people who were not LDS who have had prayers answered and marvelous spiritual experiences. I believe that no matter if a person believes in Christ, Allah, or Buddha if they use the knowledge they have God will help them out. Much like the woman in Phonecia who although she wasn’t of Israelite heritage Christ still healed her son because of her faith. I also agree that people within the church focus way too much on outward manifestations of faith, rather than the inner search for spiritual power. I wish there were talks in general conference about having spiritual conversations or other supposedly “unusual” spiritual experiences.

    I guess the point in departure I would have with you is that it seems you seem to blame the institution of the church for the pharisaical tendencies within the church. As if it were the prophets and leaders who made the people too pharisaical. I would contend that the opposite is true, as in the people are so pharisaical that it forces church leaders to come to their level. I believe that Elder Richard Scott’s talk this last conference on the spirit and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk about priesthood in the 2011 April conference are a move by the church to show the members that there is more to life than just rules. I have met many leaders who have many of the same critiques as you have. I just think that at the moment the Lord has decided to teach the gospel “precept by precept” and that in general members of the church aren’t ready for those deeper spiritual principles. I only hope that changes soon.

    The other thing that I was confused about is that there tends to be a sense in your posts of an artificial nature to the church. The way you talked about the priesthood made it sound man-made and not from God, as if Joseph Smith just had some compelling ideas about ritual and authority that gives the priesthood its power rather than it being directly from God. That I guess is my difference with you, I see the priesthood as our ability to call on the power of God when our own spiritual abilities come up short. It is apart of the spiritual power we can call on, but it has greater effect the more personal spiritual power we posses.

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  41. Howard on May 25, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    Phoenix wrote: I would contend that the opposite is true, as in the people are so pharisaical that it forces church leaders to come to their level.. This is an interesting thought.  I agree leaders must address the audience at their level but they cannot remain there or no one progresses.  The prophet should set the tone and pace to grow the membership and the brethren and leaders should support it. 

    The way you talked about the priesthood made it sound man-made and not from God, as if Joseph Smith just had some compelling ideas about ritual and authority that gives the priesthood its power rather than it being directly from God.. Sorry I didn’t mean to leave that impression.  I believe it was from God.  I believe God understands how men think and made use of that in the way I described when he created the concept of ordained priesthood.

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