Wednesday, October 10, 2012

They say/I say: Origins

When I teach my students about writing I always try to explain that what they have to say shouldn't take place in a vacuum. They should always be working to respond to and build upon something else. It gives context and life to ideas. So, I just read this post by a friend and want to respond to it in bits and pieces. I like a lot of what was said, but also want to expand upon it with my own thoughts. 

It begins by stating that "Extraordinary significance is placed in the LDS faith on the character of God." I think it is important to establish a "Why?" here: To know God is to know who we came from and what we are working towards. It isn't just knowing for the sake of knowing, but knowing in order to act. This should be the reason for all types of learning; it's like the difference between having knowledge vs having wisdom right? Simply understanding vs being changed. We don't work to know who God is in order to establish a point by point theology or creed, but to be changed by that understanding, and inspired and galvanized to turn our will over to him.

The post goes on to state: "Would God’s character include deception of any type? I would say no.
I believe in a God who would have us obey his teachings, but also to accept everything science has taught us so far."

I wholeheartedly agree with this. I think that's part of the exceptional challenge of being religious in our modern world. Have you read "Reflections of a Scientist" by Henry Eyring? I wrote a little post about it you should read (and you should read the whole book too). To go with the idea of religion and science coexisting with cognitive dissonance, I quote Eyring at the end of his book: "I am certain that the gospel as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is true. It's a better explanation of what I observe in science that any other I know about. There are still lots of things I don't know, but that doesn't bother me. I'm a happy muddler. The gospel simply asks me to find out what's true as best I can and in the meantime to live a good life. That strikes me as the best formula for living there could be." 

My own method has always been to seek understanding, learn what I can, and take what sounds best. To take a common example, evolution makes sense and I'll happily accept it without straining to figure out how it coexists with the creationism. It's interesting to think about, to fiddle around with, but I don't see it as being something ANYONE will ever know (until God makes it known) so why should I ever expect to fit ALL the pieces together? Especially because in 50 years there will more new theories to supplant the ones we have now.  I'm not particularly worried about figuring out how the world began because I trust that one day all things will be made known. It is interesting to read about the dinosaurs and who killed king tut as science gets better at interpreting clues. I love that stuff and I appreciate that we have a better understand of science and history now than has been had by mankind in thousands of years. But it isn't perfect and never will be while we are ON OUR OWN. God will make all things known to us one day and grace will be as much a part of this, as it is individual day-to-day repentance.   
The post bring up the early church, Joseph F. Smith, etc. and how the church started out "being very specific and insistent about things like the world’s age, or the exact nature of evolution and it’s role in mans current state."Which makes sense when you understand the context, all of that was stuff that the american religious reformation was very keen about, and something the early elders of the church loved to speculate on -- kinda like elder's quorum/high priests group now-a-days, haha. People will always want to learn and connect this stuff. (That's part of what makes the book of Abraham soooooooo interesting!) And I totally agree that "It is not as important for us to know human tradition’s definition about the exact origin, timespan, and process of how things came to be as it is for us to know the source of our salvation, and the knowledge of what it takes to be happy in this life and in the eternities." THAT is the REAL kicker.

Which is why I love when my friend said "That is why we are here on earth. To know God. To know His Plan. To follow his commandments. Not to limit our perception which is based on what may or may not be folklore. Folklore being the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture." This is very perceptive. It goes both ways -- what we speculate about science AS WELL AS what we speculate about religion.

My friend asks "Was Joseph F. Smith’s generation lacking the scientific proof they needed at the time in order to come up with a deeper understanding of man’s origin? Were the revelations which followed only fit for times of such a limited understanding? Or were they reacting out of fear that an important tradition or story they believed in was being threatened. The truth and matter of factness of which was paramount to survival of doctrinal authority?" and these are interesting questions. Ones that don't have clear answers and probably never will… which is part of why they aren't the MOST IMPORTANT questions… the most important ones are "What does my understanding about the origins of man help me to know about myself and my relationship with God?" "How can I make myself more receptive to the Spirit and thereby more open to greater understanding through revelation?" "How do I react when my beliefs about God are questioned? Why? What can I do to feel secure in my testimony of Christ?"

The question about the tradition of the garden of eden story is also interesting. I've had that discussion with my dad, on how literal the story could be versus how likely it is just all symbolism. There is a lot of speculation both ways. So, where does that put me? I don't know which it is…but I know that I can learn a lot about how I should live my life from the story, so it doesn't bother me that I can't make up my mind either way yet. Someday I'll know. Maybe the earth big banged into existence and evolved into a nice place for God to place his very literal son & daughter to grow and learn. Maybe it's something totally different. I don't think we should ever stop trying to figure it out, but I also believe that it doesn't deserve quite as much time and attention as my efforts to develop a closer relationship with Christ. After all, isn't that going to help me understand the character of God in the most real and intimate way? And isn't that the point, "for this is life eternal: that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thous hast sent" John 17:3

Anyway, there's my two cents. I'll need to come back to this and add more scriptures asap.   

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