Monday, May 21, 2018

Dear Fellow Christian: Who Told You That Mormons Are Not Christians?

Have you ever heard that Mormons are not Christians?  I have heard this many times over the years from others that said they were a Christian.

Is Mormonism Christian or not? If so on what basis and if not on what basis?  Is Joseph Smith a prophet or not?  Is the Book of Mormon another testament of Jesus Christ or not?

I am a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints since my high school days, about 45 years ago.  Over these years I have studied the doctrines we teach and attended other churches and studied their doctrines to better understand them.

There was a transition period where I used to think Mormons were just like other churches except for a few of the sound bite notions that were floating around about how they had some strange beliefs.  

At a point, I went from being close-minded and mocking and decided to listen, study their teachings and attend church. There was nothing strange about Mormons or their beliefs. They were more biblical than so-called "biblical Christianity".

I find that a simple doctrinal understanding taught in the Book of Mormon demonstrates how classical trinitarian theologians teach the philosophies of men and how Mormonism makes the stronger case for Christianity than they do.

The Fall of Adam and Eve

To examine the Christianity of Mormonism let's take one of the better-known stories in the Bible. A chapter in the Book of Mormon gives doctrinal clarity to it and demonstrates Joseph Smith's calling as a witness for Jesus Christ.

The fall of Adam and Eve is a doctrine that usually gets discussed on a superficial level if at all. Skeptics and agnostics mock and make jokes about it and Bible scholars and teachers have been leading believers to a conclusion that is not correct or at least not considered in the proper light.

If a person claims to read the Bible or be interested in theology and doesn't understand what happened in Genesis, how are they to understand the rest of the Bible?  

I looked at what mainstream theological scholars teach about the events in the Garden of Eden.  Teachings of Mormons and Trinitarians agree that Adam and Eve did something that God told them not to do. Sin and death were the results of their choice. What then are the differences in how this event in Genesis is understood?

What is the reason that Christianity exists at all? Does it simply exist because there was an event that occurred called "The Fall"?  Did the principles of Christianity exist before that event occurred? Not according to mainstream Christian theologians and Bible scholars.  Creedal Trinitarian doctrines teach that the Trinity made up the whole concept of religion starting about 6000 years ago.

Trinitarian or mainstream scholars teach that God had never created a person and his plan was for Adam and Eve to dwell in the Garden of Eden forever with him. They say that the fall was a negative event.  

Mormons teach that the garden setting was supposed to be temporary, it was a stage.  It was necessary in order for the most important events in human history to come forth at a later time, these are the birth, sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Orthodox theologians tell us that the fall was not part of God's original objective when creating mankind and the earth.  They say mankind was supposed to live in the Garden of Eden with the Trinity forever. If so why then did God establish the means for the fall, for sin, and death and for the man and woman to be cast out of the garden?

The obvious answer should be that if there hadn't been a fall there wouldn't be a Christ. In fact, there wouldn't be any Christians at all or a Bible for that matter? I personally do not understand how this is not plain to any logical thinking, Bible reading person.  

Wouldn't the viewpoint that the fall was a bad thing, or that it was not God's plan actually be the non-Christian perspective?  Joseph Smith corrected this gross misunderstanding by making it clear that the fall was necessary and was a part of God's plan.  

Because orthodox professors of theology are interpreting scripture from a philosophical viewpoint using their own wisdom they miss this essential concept.

Who caused the fall, Satan or God?  Trinitarians would have you believe that Satan was responsible.  Wasn't it God who set the stage for the fall to take place by giving Adam and Eve a choice and allowing Satan to be there to tempt them?

When Adam and Eve partook from the "tree of Knowledge", the Gods said that man had become like one of them, to know good and evil. The ground was cursed, but it was cursed for their sake, to bless them and teach them to work. It is especially important to notice that God did not say that man had become evil like the devil because of what they had done.

The commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge no longer exists on this planet. It was there for one reason only and specific to them.  It was God’s way of making the fall Adam's choice and not being forced upon him or Eve.  It was the means for implementing moral agency not just for the salvation of God's children but for their exaltation. The opposition that we experience in life is necessary us to have the agency to make choices.

Eve did what God wanted her to do, that was to open the door to a greater more abundant life with the ongoing opportunity for creation and family life. Adam recognized this as well and followed Eve. God's plan required mortality, death and a resurrection to a glorified incorruptible body. Only Jesus Christ could provide this through his atonement. Adam and Eve did not have access to the full measure of their full potential until after the fall.

The life they enjoyed in the Garden was a static, limited life with no growth or increase. They knew no real joy because they had no sorrow. The immortal body that Adam and Eve had in the Garden was obviously corruptible as death was able to come upon them. The new body after the resurrection would not be corruptible and could never die again. Who then would doubt that God wanted the fall to happen or that Adam and Ever were this world's first Christians?

LDS believe that God created the world because he loved us first because we were his literal children. We lived with him in a pre-earth time period. Trinitarians believe that God created the earth, then man and then imputed a love to the creature that man became. According to these mainstream scholars, humans were and are a new kind of creature that never existed before. Mormons believe that we are sons and daughters of God and that we are eternal beings.

You, my friend, may have been told that the fall was not a good thing, that it was a rebellious act. This is not congruent reasoning and such thinking makes Jesus a backup plan and a reaction to the fall.  

Such reasoning puts Satan as the instigator of what can only be considered a plan B by God to deal with what mainstream scholars seem to think was an unintended consequence. Was the fall an intended consequence or not?

I am aware that Christian apologists teach that God knew they would fall, which he must if he is all knowing, however, the idea that the fall was a bad thing is still a contradictory position to redemption by Jesus Christ.  Teaching that the fall was a mistake or a bad thing or a rebellion that wasn't planned is the anti-Christian position.

Without the fall there would be no need for an atonement or payment for sin and therefore no suffering on the cross or in the Garden.  We would not have Jesus's teachings and acts of healing if there had been no fall.

Mormons believe the fall and the atonement of Jesus Christ go together. Mormons believe that Jesus was always the plan to save mankind and give us eternal life. He always was and is the main plan for our redemption.

The fall hinges on the concept of free will or moral agency and so does accepting Jesus as our Savior. Trinitarian scholars say that God gave man free will so he wouldn’t be a robot. Based on this statement, free will is still something that God gave to man. These scholars say God is the "first cause" of all things.

If God is the first cause of man’s will then he is also the cause of man's choices. This is the logic of Christian scholar-theologians. They like to use the analogy of a robot. This is how their argument goes. A robot was created, it was given free will and now it is supposedly not a robot because it has a will and can choose to love or disobey God? This imputed will can now bring about the condemnation of the soul of the individual. Is this somehow a gift from God?

Biblical apologists in defense of God not being the cause of evil created the free will argument, yet they subscribe to the first cause argument and absolute sovereignty of God. These are incongruent positions with conflicting logic.

The doctrine of moral agency in LDS theology is different from free will and does away with these contradictions. We are eternal beings, with our own will. God did not create it. His intelligence is eternal and so is ours. Our spirit is here in a mortal body as part of a learning process that God governs over with his powers of creation.  It is God's will that we are here in a mortal state to learn to subject our will to his will.  This is a time of preparation for a glorious eternal life with our families.

Latter-Day Saints believe that Jesus’ atonement was eternal and infinite and extends through all of creation. It was the only way to satisfy the demands of eternal justice. The church doesn't criticize any of the acts of faith of Christian believers but invites all to hear the message of the Living Christ.

The Bible teaches that Satan was a liar from the beginning. He was and is the father of lies and fought against Christ.  In the book of John, we understand that Jesus was with God in the beginning and he was God.  It should give pause and cause one to ask why lies and misinformation are used to discredit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a Christian church.

The Bible doesn’t say God created Satan and gave him free will so he could become evil. Philosophers imputed this idea to cover the theological contradictions of the goodness of a sovereign God and the existence of evil, injustice, and suffering.

Evil is an inherent possibility existing eternally along with the good otherwise God would be its creator. There would be no good if there were no evil and there would be no evil if there were no eternally existing laws through which God is sovereign.

We teach that Jesus was the only way to God, that he did have to die and Jesus agreed to do it before the world was ever created.  Adam and Eve too were chosen before to be our first parents. This was the only way the Father could save us and offer a glorious opportunity of exaltation to his children, those willing to follow Christ and make eternal covenants.  It is based on eternal principles and laws. 

The mainstream philosopher-theologians claim that the Trinity made up the laws, thus forcing people to suffer on earth, made up the punishments and created a hell for these creatures that it created out of nothing of which most will suffer forever in hell.

The reason for creation was to let us have a learning experience and to have a means to be liberated from the negative consequences of our sins and death because of our mistakes. Jesus overcame death and sin so we could rise with him.

When we accept him his mercy becomes available to us and we won’t have to suffer the full consequences our sins and we can become free beings in eternity. By living his gospel we also find joy in the journey of life, understanding our divine purpose for living, and the nature of our relationship to God.

The reason Jesus could satisfy the demands of eternal justice is that he lived a perfect life. He was not subject to the laws by which sin results because of his perfect obedience. This does not refer to the law of Moses but to eternal laws.

Mormons teach that Jesus was foreordained to be the Savior of the world. The Father knew he could undergo the suffering required to pay the penalty for our sins.  He would suffer and die a gruesome death that satisfied demands of eternal justice. His Godhood allowed him to give up his life. It was not taken from him. The condition of his mercy is that is we that repent of our sins. Faith in him is what causes us to do this.

For you to think that I don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible, that he is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, my Savior and Redeemer, and who is also the living resurrected Christ is from a source other than me.  That source whatever it may be is a faulty one.

Prophets of God have been called again to preside over the Savior's church.  They are the shepherds that lead the flock of Christ. They are chosen by him and have His authority and receive divine guidance for His Church.  I invite you to learn more and to know that you are literally a child of God your Eternal Father.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Governing Principles.

Today I had a fantastic ride through the north Scottsdale desert with Rod from high school and a friend that he rides regularly with.

Rod rides this high tech electric mountain bike.  It is smooth and powerful with its pedal assist technology. It gives the average rider the strength of a professional, maybe more.

We kidded around as I huffed and puffed and he blazed up hills.  I said that my bike was electric assist also.  After all the human body is an electrochemical miracle.  I told him that the only problem is that mine has a governor on it.

Many people may not be aware that their cars and many other devices have governors on them or built into them to protect the user by limiting their power or speed.  The concept of governing for our freedom would be a different discussion.

He said that his electric bike has a governor that limits the speed to a certain 18 mph.  I told him that mine limited my heart bpm to 180.   I thought it was humorous.  Maybe not.

As I thought about it though, I pondered our human potential and some teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to which we both belong.

Rod and I are both converts to the church.  I joined at 17 and he did at 40 unbeknownst to each other.  We connected again here in Arizona about 10 years ago.

What do we understand our potential to be?  We believe in a personal loving Heavenly Father in whose image we are created.  This means our spirit is the literal offspring of divine parentage.  With this heritage and the grace of his Son, Jesus Christ there are no limits on our potential to become like them.  That is the essence of their perfect love and the plan for which we are here on earth.

What governors has God given us to “govern” our mortal existence and protect us from extending beyond certain limits?

I thought about the power to create life.  How do people use that power?  It has brought us here and can bless all of our lives.  The first factor is that we do not have a desire to use it until we reach a certain level of maturity.  At that point, God gives us guidance but allows us to act with no governor to stop us other than our own desires.

This is where the principle of self-governance begins.  If you are fortunate to be familiar with the 7th commandment of the 10 God gave us, and understand it as Mormons do, you would see that it was given to protect us not restrict us.  

He gave it so we could have strong relationships in our marriages and families built on a foundation of love, trust, and respect for life itself and for each other.  There is no other instance in which self-governance in observing and obeying a principle will bless the world more and bring peace to individuals and families.

The “word of wisdom” (not partaking of certain body harming substances)is also a self-governing principle. Its purpose is not to spell out a detailed list but to guide us in understanding how obedience to certain principles opens our mind to an additional understanding of how to care for our body,  mind, and spirit.

Like the 7th commandment, the desire to partake of substances that damage our bodies doesn't usually occur until we are able to experience emotional stress or distress that we try to change through substance use or abuse.  Again at an age of understanding the governor is removed and we are now acting on our own volition.

The concept of tithing is also a governing principle.  If we give 10 percent of what we earn voluntarily we most likely focus on living a different lifestyle.  The principle is not designed to make us rich but it can.  The key factor is that it brings spiritual blessings and a prosperity that money cannot buy.

When I look at the Latter-Saints and a certain unity they have, I often asked why some criticize the conformity to certain of these principles and others that we hold as guidance from God.

They do stem from a concept taught by the prophet Joseph Smith when he was asked how he led such a diverse group of people in a newly formed frontier church.

The funny thing Is Mormons are still just as diverse as any other group of people.  We just have a common set of governing principles that many strive to live by.

The answer Joseph gave and subsequent prophets leaders have  continued to teach is: “I teach the people correct principles and allow them to govern themselves.”  That is the principle I have learned from Latter-Day Saint leaders. Self-governance is freedom and comes from understanding our purpose in life.  I contribute my happiness in life to this principle and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

California, Gospel Conversation and a Simple Perspective

My son invited me to take a trip with him and some of his friends and associates to ride bikes and motorhome down the coast of California from Monterey to San Diego. We rode about 200 miles on our bikes at various stages, doing one hundred miles on Friday and enjoyed scenic areas with a few arduous climbs for the 3 days.  

Paul's invitation was happy Father's Day, come and do this. It was quality time away from the pressing concerns of our busy lives.  I ended my adventure in Redondo Beach with Chip picking me up to spend the afternoon with him and Stephanie and the grandkids.  Boyd also stopped by.

We decided to go to dinner on our way to drop me off at the airport as Chip and Steph had already planned their date.  Before leaving Chip and I went to get a pizza for the kids.

I launched into the somewhat extended version of the dialogue that goes on in my head regarding my observations about the criticism of the church and the belief systems available to us. I told him that my understanding the gospel was simple and and filtering out the nonsense and criticisms of the church was easy.

At the end of my monologue Chip simply said that believing In the church and gospel as established by the prophet Joseph Smith was even easier to understand.  "Living the teachings of the church makes me happy and his family life good.  Happiness is the result of keeping the covenants that are administered by the church."  They are after all the teachings and pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

My dialogue was as follows.

First I have received a personal witness by direct revelation. The Holy Ghost has born an undeniable witness to me that God called a prophet, Joseph Smith. Millions of others attest to this process of a personal witness as well. The clarity of this path of truth continues to became ever more apparent to me as I live it and my son agrees as do my other seven children. 

By virtue of the message of the Book of Mormon I see the unique relationship of a prophetic ministry demonstrated by the prophet's life. I also find it as reassuring as anything I know that family relationships are eternal and marriage is not until death do you part.

The book and this teaching is a distinguishable witness and doctrine among all other witnesses and testaments in the earth. The confusion and division that exists in sectarian bible scholarship and the orthodox mainstream religions is easily observed.  The the one factor they hold in common, the idea of a triune incorporeal god, a trinity of beings in single deity does not unite their theologies or activities.

The churches and religions from Catholic to Protestants,(who in a sense are just Anti-Catholics) and Evangelicals Anti-Protestant and Anti-Catholic) all believe in the same basic definition of God. How is it that many of them also criticize each other for the way they preach their respective gospels? 

I have found that religious individuals, many of our friends simply adapt whatever they have been taught into their own religious philosophy and attend church for fellowship and ignore any doctrinal confusion. 

None of the teachers or administrators of these organized doctrines are or claim to be prophets.  They claim to be scholars, philosophers and clergy by education and ministers by a personal feeling that they should do it.  While worthwhile and noble it is not an authoritative calling from God.

The only concept that even begins to make sense is a restoration of authority and truth as the prophet claimed happened.  Did he make it up?  Based on what I have observed, not a chance.  It is divine and from God.

The prophet Joseph Smith claimed none of their credentials, only to be a prophet called by God to restore a fullness of truth and a church that would precede and prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. The fruits of his calling are evident.  

Christ invites those that desire to minister and all people to come into his church, to join his priesthood authority and the covenants administered by it.  There is a steady and growing result of goodness in the lives of people that incorporate the doctrines of the restored gospel he taught into their lives.

It is easy for me to see that the religious philosophies of organized sectarians and non-Christian sects are driven by the temporary purposes of men and not by the eternal purposes of God. Some ministers do a very good and noble work of ministering to those in need and others taking advantage of the gullible nature of humans.   

I said it was easy to see that Joseph has acquainted us with our Eternal Father and the eternal family. Can God be a single parent?  Would not motherhood be eternal as well and ordained in the heavens? Because of it fatherhood exists.  They are inseparable.  The image of God is male and female not a single genderless being. We understand clearly the relationships of intimacy, love and creation of family units based on an eternal pattern.

The philosophies of men called the precept of eternal marriage and heavenly parents that are corporeal in nature as blasphemous and they do this because their philosophies cannot stand in the light of truth.  

The critics of the Church of Jesus Christ as well are philosophers, islands of self appointment, judging the church from misguided perspectives, standing on a foundation of sand, waiting to be swept away with the tides of time.  They have their arguments based on their faulty perceptions and biases.  They lead to nowhere. They have no plan of salvation to offer.  They offer a dark mind and an empty life.

Is God's gift an eternal realm, a never ending kingdom of celestial glory,  the exaltation of husband and wife and the continuation of the family?  Or is the promise of life eternal an abandonment of family bonds, defaulting to an unnamed status of genderless existence to sit in a state of eternal complacency as told by the doctrines of men and their religious dogmas? 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Mortal Journey and The Search for Truth

My parents were Christians and good people in every way that I can remember.  They valued the important things in life.  My great-grandfather on Dad's side and one of his sons were Assembly of God preachers. My mother's family were Methodists and church going people. While we attended church my brothers and I weren't raised with a focused education regarding a Christian belief system.  

I was curious and desirous to know about eternal things and did believe, but I didn't know who or what God was. Our family attended Methodist and non-denominational churches on a sporadic basis when I was growing up. My mother died when I was eight. This caused me to wonder about God, family relationships and eventually about what the truth was.  

My earliest recollection of God was from the front page of the church program at the Methodist church in Caldwell, Idaho.  It showed a picture of a Christlike figure without a body but a trail of light and stardust.

I learned to prayer saying memorized prayers that many have heard.  "Now I lay me down to sleep" and another one for the food and the Lord's Prayer from the Bible. I didn't have a personal understanding as to how we might be connected to God. 

When I was 6 we moved to Grandview Idaho. One of our babysitters was a Mormon and talked a lot about her church. She told us how it was different from other churches, even that it was the true church.  I remember asking my dad about it and he said that all churches were the really the same. 

Over the next 5 or so years I would meet other Latter-Day Saints in this small farming community in Southwest Idaho but I was young and not much interested. Just going to our church when we did was a chore. My brother attended their Primary class with some friends but I never did. Her words about a true church lingered with me though.

When we moved to Boise, I met more Mormons and became aware of some of their teachings. I went to church with some friends when I was about 16.  I learned about how they were not supposed to use tobacco or drink alcohol. I heard about their doctrines of living prophets like in the Bible and the principle of eternal marriage, families, and temples. 

I had never heard such teachings from orthodox Christian ministers about eternal marriage. I quickly realized that many things I had been told about Mormons were not true and that those that had tried to dissuade me were seriously misinformed.  

The Christian churches that I attended taught that marriage was until death do you part as fundamental orthodox theology. Over the years I have asked many people what they thought about family relationships and most claim some hope that their family relationships continue after death. This is not however what orthodox Christianity teaches.  

I made a discovery in the process of learning these things. Every doctrinal teaching and practice in mainstream Christianity is based on opinions of Bible scholars, not revelation or affirmation from God. 

Christian sectarianism is based on the philosophies and opinions of individuals that study the Bible. There are many divisions because some don't agree with other Bible-based teachers. Mormonism is founded on direct revelation from God to prophets, the same as the pattern as found in the Bible.

Most Christians are not familiar with the basic tenets of their own fundamental mainstream Christian theology. Mormonism gives the strongest assurance that I know of that marriage and family relationships can indeed continue with the bonds of family love and affection continuing and even increasing in the eternities.  

As I learned basic LDS beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, living prophets and the doctrine of eternal families, I found answers to questions that the sectarian ministers could not answer with any logical conclusion. Where did we come from, why are we here on earth and what happens after we die?  

Trinitarian ministers say life and God are a mystery and God left it to us to figure out. They say that the Bible is perfect but that no person, minister or scholar understands it perfectly. This is one reason there are so many churches.  My personal view was that if there was one God over us all, why would he have more than one church? 

When I was 17 years old I was baptized and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Many of my questions were answered and God confirmed the truth of it to me through the power Holy Ghost. This is a pattern explained in the Bible.  It is part of the process of being born again spiritually. Before that time I had no idea as to how God would communicate truth to me. 

I have observed convincingly that he loves us and will reveal the truth to us. I have seen prayers answered in my life and in others in many ways hundreds of times. Truth, help and guidance can be communicated to us that is consistent with truth already revealed and authority that exists to receive it.  Such is the Lord's church regarding theological teachings and authority to administer the Church. 

The churches of men have no such authority. Mainstream Christianity, protestantism is essentially a rejection of the Catholic church and continuing disagreement among Bible Scholars as to how they should teach and preach.

Some tried to tell me I was not informed enough about religion, that Mormons were not Christians, but a cult and other misleading things as well to dissuade me.  Now after 43 years I have been well assured and know with absolute certainty their suppositions were not correct and they were misinformed themselves.  

These long standing myths about Mormons persist in the modern era. Just for starters everything in the church, Sunday attendance and worship, the temple, tithing and any participation in any respect is voluntary. There is no paid clergy and there have been 16 prophet leaders.  There is no personality other than Jesus Christ at the center of our beliefs.  The majority of the church has never met Joseph Smith yet his early critics established a narrative that persists with all of its falsehoods. 

How could 14 year old uneducated boy be a mastermind or a mind control genius of some kind according to the allegations of his critics. These are perhaps the most unbelievable of the myths perpetuated by his and the church's critics. This link to Mormon Critics.

This video explains how the church began.  It is a principle we can all use to discover the truth.

I have watched how our membership in the church has blessed our lives with happiness through understanding our purpose. I served a two year mission to Argentina when I was 19. I was married in the temple 39 years ago. My children have chosen to be married in the temple as well. Five have served missions, my five sons-in-law have served missions and our youngest son is on a mission. 

I have also known hundreds of members and observed thousands of people in the church. Millions of others have had experiences similar to mine as we witness the effects of the gospel teachings and living them. 

I have served in many callings and currently am a primary teacher with my wife, serving a local service mission and a temple ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple. As I look back over my experience with the church, the temple and the doctrines of Christ and eternal families that are associated with it, I feel an extreme amount of gratitude. 

Understanding Theology 

I learned many things about both Mormons and Mainstream Trinitarian Christians in the process of my journey in life.  One of the stories that I had heard before I joined the church was that Mormons believed that only Mormons went to heaven. Other Christians still claim that we are not Christian. I knew these statements were not true but didn't know why other people thought so. 

The Holy Ghost did bear witness to me of the truth of the gospel and the reality of our Savior's atonement. I know what I experienced was real. I recognize that this is not what others perceive about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It caused me to study more intently what orthodox Christianity really taught and believed both about Mormons and their own doctrines.

I learned how people get their information about Mormons from so called Christian apologists using books and materials provided by critics of the Mormon church whose intent has been to spread misinformation. I encountered a multitude of other inaccurate things that Mormons supposedly believe and do. These notions circulate in sectarian church meetings and other settings and are promoted by a small number of people that have disagreed with the church on various principles, doctrines and teachings since its beginning.

Being accused of not being a Christian made me wonder what other Christians really believed. Learning about some of the differences in theology taught me why there are certain misunderstandings circulating in the religious world about Mormons. I discovered that most church attending Christians are not familiar with their own theology let alone what Mormon teachings.

Modern Christians with the Nicene and Apostles creeds believe that earth is God's only populated creation. Although scholars may disagree, the fundamental doctrine is that the trinity deity is a being of limited capacity.  It created only one earth, saves a limited number of people and condemns more that it saves according to most Christian apologists.

Mormons believe that we lived with God before we came to earth. We are literally the sons and daughters of God. All human beings are literal brothers and sisters.  The theology is very unique in that as I mentioned earlier we teach that marriage and family unit relationships can be eternal. Another unique claim of Latter-Day Saints is that we are created literally in the image of God, male and female.  

Orthodox Christianity teaches that we were created out of nothing at our birth, we never lived with God or knew him and all we are simple pawn like creations. They teach that that this was God's first and only creation with people on it.  They also teach that God has no form, is celibate, solitary and genderless.  In mainstream Christian terminology words like brothers and sisters are used, but are only metaphorical and not as we understand them in our family relationships.  

There is no actual relationship with our creator in orthodox Bible scholarship and its theological conclusions. Since Jesus and God are the same essence of being, even though the terms father and son are used, they are neither father or son since they are the same formless being and genderless except for a short time Jesus was corporeal according to the dictates of the Nicene Creed.

Mormons are the only Christian church that I am aware of that has millions of believers worldwide and does not believe that God is an incorporeal, incomprehensible entity.  We do not believe in the mysterious trinity of the Nicene Creed of orthodox Christianity. We believe in an eternal godhead consisting of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. They are the divine leadership fully united as one in the saving process of Heavenly Father's children.  

Orthodox sectarian churches teach that God is single or solitary, genderless, celibate and incorporeal in nature. Mormons believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies.  They are men, and literally a father and his son.   They are exalted beings of the highest possible glory and we at present are not.  We do look like them however and that is what it means to be created in their image. 

Mainstream Christianity again says that we are created in the image of God (that is what the Bible teaches) however orthodox theologians teach the formless nature of deity and therefore the impossibility of being created in God's image. This is a contradiction that seems evident. They use other metaphors to be in God's image to match the biblical narrative.

The average Christian believer that has some biblical scholarship as well as those that don't find God most approachable in the form of Jesus Christ.  For the obvious reason, he was incarnate or embodied in flesh. According to their own theology, he is not really the son of God, but a part of a mystical trinity of beings that form one incorporeal god. Neither fatherhood or sonship is actually acknowledged except for metaphorical purposes since the Bible uses those terms. 

Their precept is that deity is genderless by determination of Bible scholars and such teachings of orthodox theological seminaries and divinity schools. Mankind is according to these scholars a creation of this being, a pawn of sorts, but not really a child like we are children to our parents. 

According to sectarian professors of religion we are not really created in the image and likeness of God at all.  According to them God has no form. To Mormons the image of God is not a single genderless deity as taught by mainstream theologians but is male and female as in separate and actual beings, not in the same person.

Our individual intelligence is eternal and our spirit is the offspring of God in a literal manner. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are part of God's eternal family. Our creation is the result of divine love between eternal beings, one our heavenly father and the other, our heavenly mother.  All of us are brothers and sisters to each other and to Jesus Christ and have parents in heaven who are our creators.

Our life on earth is an essential part of a growth process and an eternal pattern of creation that allows us to develop our eternal potential.  All mankind will be saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ no matter what they believed while alive. The resurrection does consist of varying degrees however.  

We came to earth for a divine purpose to form our own families, which also can be eternal as I mentioned.  The temple blessings and covenants exist for this purpose. This is our turn to learn to love, serve, create and nurture the life giving process.  

Mainstream Bible scholars can't ascribe a logical reason for God creating the world or people other than to give glory to himself. What type of being, already perfected would have need to start creating people to glorify it for the last six thousand years?

I believe that because of his perfect love God wants all of us to return to live with him.  It is however our choice.  He will not force us and cannot force us because he also abides by perfect justice. This is based on the doctrine or principle of moral agency.   He will give us the information we need to return to his presence but it only happens if we chose it and follow it. That is how we demonstrate our faith. We do make a doctrinal distinction between salvation and exaltation.  The choices we make affect the outcome.

Those that offer willing commitments through their covenants to the eternal designs of our Heavenly Father receive all of the grace necessary to be exalted in the image and likeness of God. That is his ultimate endowment based on his perfect love, justice and mercy and our willingness to accept it and act on it.  

We can live with God and our own families forever.  We are part of his eternal family as well as those that he allows us to form.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What is Love

For the month of February the topic of love is on everybody's mind?  Millions or perhaps billions are spent reminding us, selling us and then going to buy the goods of Cupid. What is this emotion, feeling, connection, virtue we call love? 

We know something of the shortcomings and challenges we each face. How can we focus on the potential to enjoy this emotion that each of us has a desire to experience?

My wife is a patient and forgiving person. I have failed more times than I can remember to buy her flowers on special occasions or buy her a birthday present.  Is this really what love is all about though? 

Is love a product, bought and sold with money or is it developed through patience and forgiveness? Why not be nice all the time, give the gift of self and buy random flowers or presents?

My personal approach to life and discovery is to understand "the why" as some say. We base much of our attitudes in life on experience. We are also exposed to philosophical, scientific or theological reasonings.  How are they tied together in a bond of truth?

We think life would be wonderful if we could only experience the ideals of love, but the reality is that life is a constant state of learning amid opposition and pitfalls.  Thankfully it is interspersed with joys and occasional elation. What we learn and how we then act can increase the constancy of joy and love in our lives.

Doesn't it make sense to determine the level of commitment we want to attain and the depth of our development we desire with this powerful experience we call love?  Isn't love a connecting factor in so many of the relationships that we value on the highest level of our capabilities?  

Notions of Love

More songs have been written about this subject than perhaps any other. Love lost or gained is a thematic element of many movies. If I could "save time in a bottle" or write an "old fashioned love song"everything would turn out okay I was told in high school.

Some call love the most powerful force in the world.  This they say because they think it drives human passions for better or worse. It has been called crazy love, free love, love is blind. Blinded by what? And love at first sight. The sight of what? Are these really love? The world does keep us moving at a fast paced superficial level.

Some say there are four kinds of love and others seven.  Then there are terms that describe something else such as God is love or endless love.  If this is so, then how so?

We are subjected to many forms of media portrayals supposedly depicting love. The imaginations and expressions of writers and actors that often have no bearing on reality still affect us as they float about everywhere in the popular culture.  

These entertainment notions and portrayals reduce a person's power to make lasting connections if they try to imitate them in the slightest. Skepticism and mockery rule the airwaves masquerading as intelligent observations to the uninformed.

When I was a young man I thought about the emotions of love and what they might be when I became serious about a relationship. How would I know if I was in love or not?  I wasn't sure what to expect from marriage. How do feelings of affection and commitment develop? 

I have learned that love is as much a discipline as it is an emotion and that love as a power is only developed when implemented as a principle of action. Sorry, no magic arrows, just effort and commitment.  Where do we want love in our life?  At a superficial level, or can we really look at the ramifications of our relationships?

The Science of Love

We like to think or say that love is in our hearts but in reality love develops in our mind. It is cultivated and stored in the cells of our brain in ways we hardly comprehend.  It is very scientific for those that study it.  You only need to read a few noteworthy articles to understand how much science has discovered about the body and brain yet don't understand it all.

Does what we eat and how we exercise affect our ability to love and feel loved? To know about neurochemicals, receptors and electrochemical function and the rest of the nervous system is quite amazing. There are 23,000 identifiable chemical processes in the human body.  There is certainly some possibility for variance and misfiring. 

The emotion of what we call love can and does act on our whole body. We know our heart is affected in a physical way at the sight or thought of a special person. These feelings seem to extend to all of the nerves in our body at times. Do we not also call the depression that sometimes sets in when love is lost or a loved dies a broken heart?

Like words, emotions including love are recorded and stored as electrochemical light and energy in a format more powerful than any computer.  No computer can convert information into emotion or convert emotion into a physical experience like the human experience. 

Our feelings or emotions go into action according to stimulus we might receive. We also create them by choosing to act on knowledge we gain in our associations and activities. The science of emotion is real  but I think it is a more powerful science than we understand with our elementary discoveries that look in limited spectrums?

My Opinions about Love

This blog is about exploring the relationship of temporary or mortal things in the context of eternity and the nature of our spirit.  My conclusion is that our mind is more than just our brain and is where the spiritual and mortal join for the present life. This essay just started as an opportunity to see what love really is to me so don't get hung up if you don't agree.

Even though we die, the elements of our body are still eternal as they cannot not created nor destroyed, this is a scientific fact. What about our emotions? Are they a flash of electrochemical charges or part of a more eternal process?

You can't speak of love having an eternal nature without considering some theological underpinnings. How trustworthy are the opinions and musings of social scientists and scholars with their theory and opinion based teaching and learning methods?

How does such a complex emotion and virtue develop in beings living on a micro speck planet in the Milky Way Galaxy amid an endless cosmos? Are we mere creatures of evolution as some theories and limited science suggest or something of a more eternal nature?  Both require faith to believe and to search for answers.

I personally believe that we are of divine origin, part of a never ending order of familial relationships of a higher order than most are familiar with at the present time. 

This life is school, a school where we learn about love.  Our degree depends on our desires and our willingness to recognize what we don't know and make a plan to develop and learn.  Where will we be when we graduate? The history of the world is a story of the effects of love and hate on the lives of individuals, nations and mankind.

Like all principles, matter, intelligence, truth and existence itself we need to identify the nature of the subject we contemplate. Is it eternal or temporary? When did love begin to exist?  

My views on love I have gathered from my experience in life, being married for 37 years and raising our eight children together. I adore her more than ever because of our experience together.  I am quite familiar with the love of a mother and wife and have tried to implement the love of a father and husband. It is a process not an event.

Any science of my observations you can read in scientific articles. My theology is based on my association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  What I say though is my own opinion. Official Church positions are here. 
See "The Family" a proclamation to the world.

The Philosophy of Love

Love, like all characteristics is developed through the decisions we make. In the crucible of life we encounter forces that exist in natural opposition to each other. We would call hate and darkness an opposite to love and light or sweet to bitter or good to evil. Love is the embodiment of all virtue and hate the summation of all vice. The development of virtue leads to love and light, any default to vice leads to hate and darkness. 

If there is such a thing as true love there will undoubtedly be false love or counterfeits as well.  If we fall in love can we not also fall out? Love is a choice we make to serve others. Without natural opposition there is no real experience for freedom of choice or emotional development. We can love others when they don't love us back.  Do we not call this unconditional love?

We develop love, other attributes and emotions by our thoughts, pondering, reading, entertainment and from mentors at home and elsewhere. This is part of the stimulus we submit ourselves to as naturally existing beings in a life experience designed for this purpose.  

How we act reinforces what we accept. We choose which stays and which goes and how it plays into our eternal development.  This is the agency associated with our individual will and freedom to act as we choose.

The Eternal Nature of Love 

The endless nature of space and the fact that eternity exists are two givens at the core of any search for truth. Our science is infantile even if it were 10,000 years old.  It is not however and the most comprehensive advancements have been made in the last 200 years. We have begun to confirm what is already a self evident truth. There is no end to space.

Part of the problem with theologies of the past is that they don't line up with science or good philosophy or common self evident truths. They teach of a one planet creator and limited to creating of inferior persons.

Science can explain very well the organization of the body and its functions. We know how atoms come together to form a person and all other things. Matter cannot be created or destroyed.  It is not magic how a person is formed.

Philosophy can conceive some answers to live by but only God can reveal the full nature of truth.  We cannot make up our own science or theology and think that they are true.

In explaining the existence of our spiritual nature many a philosopher and speculator or scholar has come up with ideas that they think are a rational explanation.  They either base it on scholarly interpretation or philosophical debate.  None of these are authoritative.

If you don't think a part of you is eternal you should probably stop reading here.

I will explain how creation and love is understood based on my understanding of revealed theology in my church.  Love does make the world go round.  Just not in the manner personal opinions might assume.

If you believe the Bible for example, the scripture is quite clear that we are created male and female in the image of God.  No other orthodox religious organization teaches this as a literal fact.  The common understanding is that God does not have a body or exists as an actual person. They developed a confusing dogma of three beings in one.

How was our spirit created? The literal nature of our spiritual creation is a natural process.  It is not magic or made up out of a void.  All science is a spiritual truth as well.  The elements of spirit are just as real as the organics we experience now.  We just don't have the science currently that demonstrates all of the revealed theology.

There is an eternal pattern of creation. It doesn't change. We look like the parents of whose spiritual children we are and our mortal parents as well.

In the eternal and infinite heavens there is no creation without both motherhood and fatherhood bound together in holy commitments. 

The nature of our creation and our maleness and femaleness is a self-evident truth manifest in the earth and is an eternal law. Likewise there is no continuation of love without this creative process. Men are nothing without women and women are nothing without men as nothing would exist without both. You just shouldn't believe everything you see on TV or hear politicians say regarding procreative processes.

Love is the source of God's desire to lift us to our full potential. God as the creator of our spirit means parents plural.  The glory of God is not limited to the male gender.  This has been the conclusion of various scholars acting on their own accord in conjunction with certain creeds for almost 2000 years.

We should love one another because we are quite literally brothers and sisters, spirit sons and daughters, children of God. Our identity is eternal. It is not a conclusion decided by philosophy. 

The life giving process that we are familiar with doesn't always take place in a union of love and respect. Children are not always welcome in some relationships.  

Most of mankind has the power to create life with few exceptions. It is given to us as a natural order and exists independent of how we might choose to develop our appetites and passions. Love is not just the base attraction among humans, nor is it random, but its counterfeits are.  

Love develops not only by serving others but serving with them.  If we don't create life and nurture it in bonds of stability then love will not develop or eventually disappear from society. 

Why did God give us the power to create life?  Because he wants us to learn to love like he does. To nurture and to bond in a natural occurring way in family units.

The law of sexual integrity or chastity guides us to the highest order of eternal relationships, whether or not our mortal circumstances provide opportunities to have children. This law is an eternal self-existing principle.

What if we don't have the opportunity to form the marriage relationship we might desire at the present time? Patience and faith still form the basis for this endeavor.  No one is denied a blessing they seek because it did not present itself in mortality. Because of the perfect love of God opportunities exist of which we have been made aware but not yet fully revealed.

The joy of love is compounded immensely in marriage with the fidelity of husband and wife...not diminished.  When we observe the law of sexual integrity, life giving powers and joys are magnified and multiplied in our lives, meaning they extend to the next life.   Our emotional investments do not go away when we die if we covenant here to keep them.

God ordained marriage for men and women and invites us to follow His pattern for the fullness and perfection of love.  This is the transcendent opportunity to serve not only each other but with each other in life and love giving opportunities.  Not just in mortality but in eternity.  

Living outside the bounds of these protections of marriage and sexual integrity causes loss of the sensitivities that allow us to develop the full potential of this eternal experience. 

Marriage and family is an eternal order of living. It is given so we can make the commitment to receive the full potential of love and it will be more than a lifetime process and it won't happen without many mistakes. This is why there is a Savior.  Our mistakes don't need to hold us back. 

Our decisions do determine our direction and ultimate destiny. This is the law of Agency and the law of the Harvest.  Eternal relationships are at the center of everything we believe in the church. Love is eternal because it exists and is perpetuated in the family unit both in heaven and in earth. Without familial creation there is no continuation of love.

God will not force us to act in a holy manner just because he does. He invites us to follow his order of love because our eternal nature can develop to its fullest potential by doing so.  This is the path of perfect and eternal love. It comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tour de Park City Utah 173 mile Gran Fondo

A few months back Jesse mentioned that he was thinking about doing an event in Park City. I think he told me it was a 70 mile or so ride at higher altitude and it sounded like a fun place to get away from the Arizona heat. I didn't think about it much after that and went about business. A few weeks ago in an email there was a description of the event and I thought about it more seriously. There were three distances, 50 miles, 100 and 170 as they advertised them. For some reason the 170 seemed to appeal to me and within a day or two I was seriously considering it and a week later registered for it.

I had not been training for anything like that distance but since I had done the 70.3 Ironman in Boise in June and was riding hard for short distances the previous 3 weeks or so I would go for it.

I talked Betty and the kids into going as well with a trip through Vegas and a day at Lagoon. We had a two day complimentary stay at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and $50 dining credit so we stopped there and watched the goofiness of the world, swam, relaxed and did the breakfast buffet for a meal. The kids and I went to the Stratosphere as well and rode the rides at the top. We left for and arrived in Vegas on Wednesday evening and lefty Friday morning and drove to Park City.

We booked a hotel for Park City on Priceline for 75 dollars a night at the Yarrow Hotel. It said it was a 3 star but definitely not any more than a 2.5. When I unpacked my bike from the trunk I noticed that my rear brake was broken, spring had been compromised. Fortunately right across the parking lot was a bike shop. They were able to take it in and fix it. However the mechanic adjusted the brake a little to tight which I did not notice until I started riding the next morning. For 50 plus miles I pedaled against some friction that I could feel but not tell exactly what was happening in the rush of the group start. In my relief to have it fixed I don't think I noticed it when I rode back to the hotel.

The hotel had two queen sized beds so that was good for the kids as they had slept on the couch at the hotel in Vegas. Being a cheaper hotel in Park City I think it had a tendency to attract some budget conscience drinkers as the guy in the room next to us decided to beat up his female partner at 2:00 AM. Between their pounding and the police coming that is when I woke up and never went back to sleep. At 4:30 I got up and started making my drink bottles and preparations and headed to the ride start at 5:15. The ride started at 6:00 AM.

As we took off I started having problems pedaling and keeping up. My heart rate shot up and I could not figure out if I had a mechanical problem or if the lack of sleep was the issue. Needless to say I fell off the group very quickly and at least was able to settle in with the more casual riders in the event. My main concern was to not have to ride alone. Some how I found the ability to hammer up the first few hills and stay with a group for the first 50 miles until we stopped for some food and drink. I borrowed a Leatherman tool from one of the volunteers and opened my brake as much as I could. It felt better and I was able keep up easier for the next 25 miles. After the 75 mile break I kept up for about another 20 miles or so and then started to hit a wall. I dropped by myself and was able to keep going on the level but still in my easier gears.

The one thing that I did which I learned the hard way was to get a more suitable gearing for a long ride with climbing. I had a gear cog with a 28 tooth sprocket put on the rear which was better suited to climbing than the 26 that I had been using since I started riding. That was probably the main reason I was able to keep going.

Somehow I made it to the 105 mile point and food station. The group that I had been chasing was taking a longer break and were there when I arrived. I said I was done and going to hitch hike back to Park City. These really were nice people and we had developed a quick and caring relationship. They encouraged me to just eat and rest and to not give up, even though the hardest 15 miles of the ride were coming up. The climb to Mirror Lake. They did it by telling me that I had to do the descent on the other side. It was 25 miles of smooth downhill sailing. It worked and I set off to climb the mountain even though I thought I was wasted physically. Two plus hours later I was at the top and smiling at my accomplishment at 10,756 feet. The overcast sky and the light cloud bursts were encouraging as was the amazing scenery of the route.

The downhill was worth it and soon I was only about 30 miles from finishing. I was still spent though and I don't think I would have finished if I had to keep going by myself. One other rider that had been trading me for last place reached the 140 mile point and got in the SAG vehicle to call it a ride. I felt for him and was about to do the same. I had however at the time been picked up by two other riders that were pulling me along with them. At least I had found the energy to keep up. They were two sisters that were strong riders training for the LOTOJA, a 210 mile ride from Logan, UT to Jackson Hole WY. They slowed down enough to get me to the last rest stop and then the last 18 miles back to Park City. There were two long and steep climbs out of Kamas that I dreaded but was able to make thanks to my gearing.

All told I think I had convinced myself to quit at least five times but knew deep inside that I really wanted to finish the ride. Between the encouragement of other riders and the help of the two sisters I reached the finish line and felt the satisfaction of having set out to do something harder than I had ever done before and accomplished it. This was a beautiful course along rivers, streams, lakes and mountains. I had always wanted to do such a ride and hope I can do it again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Training for the Ironman 70.3 in Boise Idaho

When I was in Boise visiting my family 2 or 3 years ago an event was held in the Boise area for the first time. The Boise 70.3 Ironman. I thought that sounded like something I would like to try someday. I had just started riding a bicycle and was enjoying it but had not really done anything to substaniate a fitness level. I put it in the back of my mind and when I came home I kept riding the bicycle and competing with myself in various races and rides to keep motivated to get better.

I did longer and longer rides until I did the first century in Tucson in 2009. The Tour de Tucson 109 miles in about 5 hours and 23 minutes. I was actually slower by a few minutes in 2010 but I did not train as much and it was a very windy day. There have been other century rides as well but mostly just three to four mornings a week at 20 to 40 miles. As I seemed consistent with the bicycle I thought it might transfer to other areas of endurance athletics as well. It just isn't an easy transfer of activity or motivation.

I did incorporate pull ups into my exercise ideology. A funny thing happened on the way to the ball game. I was at a high school football game and the Marine recruiters were there with a pull up bar and giving out treats. I jumped up and grabbed the bar and could not do one pull up. In the process of doing it I felt the exertion in seemingly every muscle in my body including my feet. The strain was nauseating and the fact that I could not do a single one disconcerting.

I started stopping at the grade schools and Junior High schools and doing pull ups on the monkey bars. I got up to one then two and so on util I can now do 11 slow fully extended pull ups. I bought a door way pull up bar and have a full size one on my back porch. Every day I go out there and look at it and say I don't feel like doing pull ups today then I grab the bar and do them. It is such a short work out but its better than nothing. This has been good therapy for my back, neck and shoulders. I have had some issues over the years and various surgeries on my shoulders. At this time however I am as pain free as I have ever been. It feels great. I have separated my shoulder twice in the last two years as well and both times the healing has been fairly quick and without ongoing issues that I can tell.

About two months before the event I got a trial membership at a Gym with a pool and started swimming laps. I would swim for 30,40, 50 minutes and felt like I could do it. I only did about 8 work outs in the pool. About 10 days before the even I heard about a triathlon in Show Low, AZ. They had an Olympic distance and half Ironman distance. I thought the Olympic would be a good test so I went to the triathlon store on Wednesday and rented a wet suit. I went to Saguaro lake on Friday to do an open water swim with the club. I found out very quickly that I was not in shape for the swim.

I went to Show Low on Friday and did the event on Saturday the 4th of June. The swim was torture, with the wind blowing and waves and all the swimmers. I barely made it back. The swim was almost a mile. The bike went fine and then I did the 6.1 mile run without too much trouble. I had run 6 miles about two weeks before and that and about 5 other runs at the track of varying distances was my training for the 70.3 that I would do on the 11th of June 2011.