Living the Plan of Happiness

November 17, 2013

I’m not a pessimist even though I have been told otherwise from time to time.  I am highly optimistic about the future of the righteous and already in mourning for the wicked who refuse to repent.  The scriptures include both promises of blessings for obedience, and warnings of highly painful consequences for those who turn against God.  In fact, the blessings and warnings are fairly well balanced in scripture because “Wickedness never was happiness,” and God wants us to be happy because we are his children and he loves us.  That is why he gave us the scriptures, so that we would better understand the consequences of our behavior.  He knows all the consequences of every action, every word and every thought because he is omniscient. We are not.  When we try to foresee the future, we are often surprised by the unintended consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds.

I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, just as most of us have.  And while some of us have suffered more than others, we have all suffered.  Some suffering is unavoidable, and we have done nothing to bring it upon ourselves.  But some of our suffering is avoidable, and we could have done better if we had been wiser.  There is no reason in this life for pessimism.  The Plan of Salvation is also called the Plan of Happiness.  And we can have great happiness in this life if we follow the path to it.  On the other hand, if we follow the road to ruin, we will finally reach that destination too.  Keeping both outcomes in mind, and our ability to choose the right, is not pessimism.  It is just realism.  Optimism, genuine optimism based upon realism, comes from understanding the Plan of Happiness and finding ways to effectively utilize it in our daily life.  If we aren’t saying our prayers, studying the scriptures, attending church, loving and serving others, repenting of our sins and keeping the commandments, we do not have enough faith to live the Plan of Happiness, and we will end up living the Plan of Misery by default.

Here is one of the most important scriptures for me in understanding the Plan of Happiness:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people.  And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:26-27)

The reasons I rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ is in part because this passage gives me hope that I can make things better for myself and those I love. What could be more optimistic than that belief and hope?

Advertisements

The Foolishness of Atheism

August 22, 2013

I once read a literary critique by T.S. Elliot of William Shakespeare’s sonnets.  It was highly critical.  Basically, Elliot said that Shakespeare was a lousy poet.  I was reminded of an ant crawling up the leg of an elephant.  By what rationale could a literary pipsqueak like Elliot criticize the greatest writer in the history of the English language?  He simply was not qualified.

Today I see the same hubris coming from many of the crusading atheists such as Richard Dawkins and his faithless admirers.  They claim that we who believe in God have no evidence to support our belief.  Well, what is the evidence for their disbelief?  There is none that I am aware of.  The whole discussion reminds me of the dozens and perhaps hundreds of verses in scripture that proclaim that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.  Or in other words, man’s wisdom is no such thing.  Man’s wisdom is actually foolishness.

If there is no God, then either there is no universe, or the universe created itself.  And whenever in all human history has anyone, believer or atheist, ever seen anything create itself?  Does a tree create itself?  A rock?  A person?  A mathematical formula?  A poem or novel?  What?  Joseph Smith said that there never was a man who didn’t have a father, and there never was a father who was not first a son.  Duh.  How can there be anything spring into existence out of nothing whatever?  It has never happened.  It has never been witnessed or observed.  And should it happen, it would violate every known law of physics.

Here are two verses from the Book of Alma in which he explains the truth of the matter to Korihor:

And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. (Alma 30:40)

But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44)

But my personal favorite is this one:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:19)

All of mankind’s knowledge is less than a single drop in the vast ocean of our ignorance.  Were it not so, we could not continue to progress as rapidly as we do because there would be little left to learn.


Personal Opinion or Revelation?

August 4, 2013

Many years ago in 1968 someone at  Church told me how to tell whether a teaching is “personal opinion” or “revelation.”  If you agree with the opinion, then that is revelation.  If you don’t agree, then it is personal opinion.  And so it is with following the prophets, at least for many.  If you agree with the prophet’s teaching, then he is “speaking as a prophet.”  If you do not agree, then that is his personal opinion.

And of course, the Church has let MORMON DOCTRINE by Elder Bruce R. McConkie go out of print.  Why?  Other doctrinal works that have had far less impact on the Church have continued in print throughout the fifty years that I have been a member.   I think it might be the result of this difference between personal opinion and revelation.  A lot of saints were offended by Elder McConkie’s book because he included his personal opinions?  So?  What else could a person put into such a book?  Unless he is authorized by God to bring forth scripture such as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, it has to be personal opinion.  Elder McConkie included a disclaimer stating as much in the beginning of his book.  Maybe we don’t agree with him about evolution.  Maybe he was wrong about blacks and the priesthood.  So what?  Wasn’t he as entitled to his opinions as much as the next man?

Of greater interest to me is the assumption that a “personal opinion” on the part of a prophet means that it is not true.  Who would have a better informed opinion than a true prophet of God?  I know that on the matters of evolution and the black priesthood ban, McConkie’s opinions were not popular.  Are all of mine?  Are all of yours?  Are we not entitled to a personal opinion even though others don’t agree with it?

Besides, cannot a person have a personal opinion that is also true?  The fact that it is merely an opinion does not automatically make it false, does it?  In my opinion, most of the personal opinions of Bruce R. McConkie and his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith were correct opinions, that is, they were true.  Does that make them “official Church doctrine?”  No, but so what?  I’m not aware that the Church has much “official Church doctrine,” just the opinions of true prophets.  “But they are not binding upon the Church,” some say.  Hey… the truth isn’t binding either, not on most of us, and not on most churches.  You can say that whatever is in the standard works is official Church doctrine, but what does that mean?  A hundred different scriptorians will tell you a hundred different meanings for the same verses.  Isn’t that supposedly why we need living prophets?  Isn’t that why we rely upon personal revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost?

I think that the personal opinions of Elder McConkie and President Smith are more likely to be true than not.  And even if I am wrong about that, I think they are entitled to have such opinions regardless.  In fact, that is one of the best ways to learn whether your opinions are good.  Voice the opinion, and listen carefully to the reasons people give you that they are wrong.  I learn from that, on occasion.


The Boy Scouts of America And The Savior’s True Church

May 30, 2013

When I say the Church is true, as so many Latter-day Saints affirm, what do I mean?  I mean that 1)  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day  Saints is the ONLY church currently upon the earth that has the priesthood and authority of Jesus Christ.  And 2) It is the ONLY church that is led by a prophet chosen by Jesus Christ through revelation.  And 3) It is the ONLY church that enjoys continuing modern revelation.

Keeping this in mind, I have decided to support the Brethren in their decision about the policies of the Boy Scouts of America regarding same sex attracted boys in scouting.  It is my understanding that only boys who are living the Law of Chastity will be permitted to participate in Church sponsored boy scout troops.  How effectively the policy will be carried out remains to be seen.  The so-called gay rights movement is hailing this as a great victory.  They are virtually dancing in the streets.  That puzzles me.  If the Brethren are able to enforce this policy as it has been explained, it will not be a victory for the wicked even though it may appear to be one.  We must all avoid letting this change in policy weaken our determination to be chaste and to teach chastity to our young men.  I pray that will be so.


God, Man, Darwin and Insufficient Evidence

February 4, 2013

When Jesus Christ was upon the earth in mortality, he became somewhat irritated with his apostles when they asked to see the Father.  He told them that he looked just like his Father, and if they had seen him, they had seen the Father. (John 14:9)

We also have the testimony of Joseph Smith who met with both the Father and the Son during the First Vision.  The Father is one man or personage.  The Son is another.  And they look alike.  Both were modern men as Joseph Smith was himself. (JS-H 1:17-20)

Who but “God” could have made the heavens and the earth?  And is not Jesus “God” or the Creator according to our doctrine?

Keeping this in mind, God was a modern man before this world was created.  How could this be?  Is not all the “scientific evidence” for Darwinian evolution here upon this earth?  And if there is such evidence elsewhere in the universe, have our anthropologists, paleontologists, geologists and other scientists been able to examine that evidence?

Joseph Smith taught, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man… I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea… He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. (Joseph Smith.  King Follett Discourse. April 7, 1844)

I am just foolish enough to believe that if I am a child of God, and I look like my Father just as the Savior and Joseph Smith did, I was “created” in the same way too, and the pattern for that creation was set long before the earth was made or in other words long before any of the evidence we have seen for Darwinian evolution.

Presented with this argument, many have told me, “Well, he [God] must have evolved on another planet, the one where he spent his mortality.  To which my answer is, but all the evidence we have is right here.  Could there be missing data that is essential for understanding this?

I love debating Darwinian evolution because like arguing politics and religion, there is no end to it.  Might that be the result of insufficient data?  Do we need to answer every question even when we do not have enough evidence?  When we travel to the stars, might we learn more about our origins?


Jesus Christ And The Right To Keep And Bear Arms

February 3, 2013

What does Jesus Christ and his authorized prophets believe about the right to keep and bear arms? Consider these passages:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (US Declaration of Independence. 1776)

We are all born with a right from our Creator to life and liberty.  Because we have a God-given right to life, we also have a right of self-defense.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. (Constitution of the United States of America, Bill of Rights, Amendment II)

Because arms are essential for defending our lives, we have a right to bear arms.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (Jesus Christ as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101:80)

Here our Savior Jesus Christ who gave us these rights of self-defense and bearing arms tells us that he inspired the Constitution and Bill of Rights which guarantee those rights.

I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the federal government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship, and to pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property. (Ezra Taft Benson, a prophet of God. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 617)

And here an authorized prophet of Jesus Christ tell us the government must not deny these rights to us, his children.

Others have a different opinion. Of course. Satan rages in the hearts of men in these last days. They value their own opinions above those of the Lord. All they can do is protest and state their contrary opinion.  But the truth cannot be successfully refuted.


The Intolerance of Jesus Christ

February 3, 2013

Through his prophet Alma, Jesus Christ taught:

And he said: Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (Alma 45:16)

We know that God loves us. And so he must possess the virtue of tolerance to a degree that we do not. But from this passage we learn that there must be things he does not tolerate. What are they?

God does not tolerate sin. Why? It is because he loves us. Sin causes us pain. It injures us. It brings failure and disappointment. Ultimately it destroys us. We should not marvel that Jesus Christ is intolerant when it comes to sin. He is intolerant because he loves us. He wants us to be happy, and he knows better than any of us where the path is that leads to happiness. Hence, Jesus Christ loves us, but he is intolerant of our sins. We must repent of them or we will suffer.