Thursday, December 31, 2009

All Things -- Rom. 8: 28

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom 8: 28)

A certain woman had two teachers: one who served his students and another whose students served him.

The first loved to listen, loved to give advice that helped others do work they could find joy in. He gave strong reproofs to students he knew well and who trusted him, reproofs grounded in his understanding of their goals and weaknesses.

When their time together drew to an end, she went to him, tried to express the debt she felt she owed him, to explain how grateful she'd been to count herself as his pupil.

But he said, "Don't thank me; thank the God who allowed us to cross paths."

The second teacher loved to be listened to, gave sharp reproofs at a glance without considering their implications, wanted others to do work that pleased him. She struggled under him, asked if there wasn't a better way.

When their time together drew to an end, he called her into his office and told her that he had been good for her--if not through his counsel than through his resistance. Either, after all, would contribute to her growth, and someday she would thank him.

"No" she said. "But I will thank the God who allowed us to cross paths."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is the Devil a Christian?--Matt 7: 21

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

Parley P. Pratt wrote a great story about this.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anachronistic Religion -- D&C 84: 100

"The Lord hath redeemed his people;
And Satan is bound and time is no longer.
The Lord hath gathered all things in one.
The Lord hath brought down Zion from above.
The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath."

A common criticism of Mormonism is that our sense of the past is anachronistic. People take issue with the overt Christianity of Book of Mormon prophets. They are suspicious of the way certain phrasings seem to come before their time. These same critics probably wonder what Peter, James, and John are doing in the woods of the nineteenth-century American frontier, and why temples with fonts held up by statues of twelve oxen reappear in the past today. They are intensely frustrated that we can't seem to keep our time periods straight and take it as evidence that our religion cannot be true.

I wonder if we realize, though, how deeply our religion is anti-chronistic, how much it undermines common assumptions about the absolute reality of time as a line divided cleary into past, present, and future. In Mormon thought, time is not so tight. What appear to outside critics to be oversights, sloppy fiction writing on the part of Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, are actually profound expressions of a deep truth about the way redeemed human experience will work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

J.S. Quote

Ran across this quote from Joseph Smith, quoted in George M. Hinkle's testimony against him in Missouri in 1839:

"I have heard Joseph Smith, jr. say that he believed Mahomet was a good man; that the Koran was not a true thing, but the world belied Mahomet, as they had belied him, and that Mahomet was a true prophet."

I wouldn't ordinarily put a lot of confidence in someone's politically motivated testimony against Joseph Smith, but this one is part of a larger pattern. Numerous individuals in 1838 and 1839 testified that Joseph had said something positive about Muhammad, or in which he identified himself with Muhammad. According to Thomas Marsh and Orson Hyde, who left the church just before the 1838 violence, Joseph Smith said that if his persecutors wouldn't leave him alone, he would become a second Muhammad and leave a trail of blood to the Pacific.

In nineteenth-century America, of course, comparing a religious leader to Muhammad was a worse slur, even, than comparing a religious leader to the Pope, which was the more politically correct way of accusing someone of unspeakable conspiracies.

From the 21st century, though, I find myself wondering what Joseph Smith actually said and whether there was a surprising degree of openness and fair-mindedness to it. Was he trying to say that early Islamic military history was not simply aggressive and coercive, but more deeply a response to bitter persecution? Did his perspective allow for important religious values to have been transmitted by God to a non-Christian faith? (Times have changed a great deal--when later LDS prophets issued a proclamation espousing such views in the 1970s, no one testified against them in court over it.) Did he simply feel a certain affinity for anyone as hated as Muhammad?

We may never know. But it seems probable that he did, in fact, say something and that several of his followers, bound too tightly in the mentality of their era's culture, grew disaffected over it. Perhaps the lesson of this incident as that we ought to be cautious not to let values from our own 21st-century culture tear us away from the values God's spirit has spoken to our souls.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Collapsing Time -- Mark 9: 1

"And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9: 1)

Few understand that this prophecy was fulfilled six days after it was given.

This is because the Kingdom of God exists outside of time as we experience it: in the Kingdom, past and future can be at once present. Sometimes, in the course of history, individuals have been allowed to step outside of time to see the way the Kingdom appears when all times are allowed to co-exist. When the kingdom of God comes to earth in its power, human time will melt away as the hoar frost before the sun. In isolated instances, however, individuals have already passed through the constraints of human time, even in their mortality, to experience the time of the Kingdom. This, too, is a coming of the Kingdom of God in power.

One of these instances was at the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman: when Adam gathered his posterity to bless them, the godliness with him was so great that the future also became present and he was able to bless the whole of his posterity though all the generations and dispensations that would come to exist on earth. We have yet to live the same moment he lived then, but before the Savior returns, the godliness with us will be so great that we will see our presence before Adam and the dispensations of the gospel will melt together. What happened near to the beginning of earth's time and what will happen toward the end of earth's time are in fact as one moment in the Kingdom, simply viewed through two different angles.

Enoch and the people of Zion, likewise, stepped out of time, but so fully that they only become present in human time when others match their righteousness and are able to experience the omnipresent time of the Kingdom with them. This is the way in which Enoch's Zion will join our Zion in the last days: as soon as we can see time as God does, we will see that we are standing in their presence.

Six days after prophesying that some would see the Kingdom before tasting death, Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain. That they saw Christ glorified there could happen because they had been allowed to step out of time and into the Kingdom, where the future, glorified Christ was already present. They also saw Elias and Moses from the past--on the mountain, Moses had once seen them as he received the commandments including the Melchizedek Priesthood!

It is said that in the temples, the human time grows particularly porous. It is through our presence in the temples that we are prepared to step out of human time.


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