Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts On The Atonement - Christ Is The Law

Thanks DJ for posting about the Atonement. Your testimony comes through and I feel a lot of spirit in it. It is a topic that requires a great deal of sacred handling, and I would like to comment on what you wrote and what Brother Skousen has taught.

I think Skousen provides a springboard into new ways of thinking about the Atonement. Even though I respectfully disagree with his conclusions, it is a useful talk to review and consider. Here are some points to consider.

Skousen treats the subject of 'intelligences' as a framework of third-party judges, or final arbiters, or the "law." These intelligences, according to Skousen, need to be satisfied - that the Savior can perform the Atonement because he has earned the honor of the intelligences.

Skousen is close to the truth of the matter, I believe, but far enough away to cause some serious problems and confusions about the nature of God.

Intelligence is light and truth. Light is the law, and all those who participate in light are preserved, and sanctified, and justified by that "law." We have to get away from looking at the "law" as a universal set of rules - outline of truth- that must be adhered to. Light is the organizing power of the universe, and who ever possesses it shares in the power of the law. We all have a portion of law with us, and we all possess a portion of light. God, by virtue of his recieving of all of the law, also has all truth, and is in all things, of all things, above all things - the light of truth. This is intelligence.

One gets the sense when he reads Skousen that 'intelligence' is almost like a jury, a final arbiter of the law. It is much more fundamental than that. God is God because he both possesses a fulness of law, and thereby keeps the law. There is not a distinction to be made between both ways of being.

It is asked, "Does God make law, or does he obey law?" The answer is, both. He makes law because he is quite literally 'the law.' He possesses the law - it is who he is. He cannot be separated from it anymore than my eye sight can be separated from what it can see; or my body can be separated from its flesh. Likewise, we are like God to the extent that we participate in beingness with him. If we recieve his law.

Law and God is a matter of aspect. An aspect of a table is the top. It cannot be separated from the table - but one can point to it as an aspect of the table. (This is different than a 'part' - like a table leg, which can be removed from a table.)

Because we are fallen, we are cut off from the law of God, or rather, his presence. Because light and life and law are all synomyms, being cut off from law is death to who we are. The life we enjoy now, whether we believe it or not, is by virtue of the power of Christ and his atonement. So, what is the atonement?

Christ, who participated in, and possessed the same law as his Father, was by definition 'without sin'. He enjoyed all of the power and rights of his Father. Nothing prohibited him from entering into exaltation with the Father, and possessing all light and truth.

Christ, in the atonement, descended below all law. He allowed all light to be withdrawn from him - to be separated from the Father completely. This, is truly what it meant for him to die. For Christ to descend below all things, to forfeit the law - he lost his life - and was darkened in such a way he did not see how he could continue. He thought it was over for him.

Because Christ, in his very person, had claim to the Law of his Father death could not hold him. It was part of who he was, and it flowed to him without the approval of 'intelligences' - He possessed the law independently - because he descended he below all things, he became the truth of all things.

"He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth"

Christ became such that he possessed all things independently of the Father - He became a possesser of all things, literally the light of the world. So, all that came to him he could share in his light and law. The Father that gave us life gave us his son, and by this virtue enables us to become Gods and to share in his life.

Intelligence and law cannot be separated from its possesser. I do not believe there is an independent law that exists separate from the beingness of God.

When we understand that Christ possessed all that his Father had, and willingly left his position and beingness, compromised who he was - that he was willing to be cut off forever for his Father's will - it will fill us with such love and eternal gratitude. To understand that Christ was willing to become no more - to never see his Father again - and to no longer possess light or life - for his Father's children - we will worship him with the Father, fall down, and proclaim that he is the Christ.

When I ponder these doctrines they make me tremble - we owe our entire beings to Christ and his Law. When we commit with a fullness of heart to follow Christ we can recieve all that he has. And it is only through this commitment that we can return to live with our Father and share in all that he hath.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Atonement

I'd like to discuss my favorite doctrine of the Gospel. It is the core of Christianity and without it not one if us would believe the things that we do. I'm taking most of my text from a prolific talk from W. Cleon Skousen. It is one of the most profound talks that I have ever studied and it caused me to passionately seek and study other material about the expansive, infinite doctrine of the Atonement of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The first "ah-ha!" moment in this talk came to me when I read;

"I want everyone to understand that in this life we only have a very limited amount of Priesthood authority with which to function."

I had never considered this. I suppose that, like many, when I was granted the higher Priesthood I assumed that I was full, that I was now finally able to exhaust the capacities of the Priesthood, contingent upon my faith and worthiness. Never had I even considered that;

"There are many ordinances that must as yet be given in the next world, and one of them will be the ordinance of resurrection."

This was nothing less than a detonation of one of the most premiere revelations of my mortal life. Being a skeptic, I at once dismissed it. Then, as I often do, I came back to it over and over and over again. Then, as I opened my heart and mind, I appealed to what I can only explain as spiritual logic. I then realized that not only does it make complete sense, but it also made me cry (a lot of things make me cry). The practice of this doctrine is nothing I deserve. But, the Saviour knows that and he has given me the opportunity anyway. Doctrine such as this softens my heart and warms me as it gratefully compels me to face my Saviour with nothing less than complete humility.

In his talk, Elder Skousen makes the comment that "God the Father cannot save us". Reading on, he explains as though Heavenly Father's position is that, "Once I put you down into the second estate, I lost all capacity to bring you back. If I brought you back myself, it would be arbitrary, capricious, and unjust and violate the rules by which the whole kingdom was established. I lost complete control over the possibility of bringing you back myself."

"God the Father cannot save us.

He has to operate according to law.

Alma 34:11 says no person can suffer for the sins of another person. That's the law."

I suppose I didn't actually, forcefully realize until digging in to this doctrine that the Atonement entirely rests on mercy, not justice.

Elder Skousen goes on;

All right, now how does this atonement work?...To overcome the demands of justice on all mankind, you must have a person who is infinitely loved (as it says in Alma 34). You know that infinitely means universally. So we take a spirit who is so superior that he is the first counselor in the First Presidency of Heaven. He is so honored that when the Father wants something done He speaks to this person, and then he in turn speaks to [the "intelligences" that make up everything that is not human and is not God or Jesus Christ]. He is identified as the Word, the one through whom the word passes. He is loved and respected by all, just like the Father is. So we use him. He is infinitely loved, and we have him come down to the second estate and live a perfect life without offense so that he can return to the Father. While laboring among the human family, we have him suffer so terribly that the little intelligences of the entire universe are affected. They abhorred the suffering that he went through. They loved him, as it says in the Book of Mormon, and the very elements [or, intelligences] cried out against this torture of someone they loved.

Elder Skousen makes the point that if Heavenly Father were to lose the obedience of the intelligences, that he "would cease to be God" because He would have to break eternal laws, thus losing their confidence in His perfection.

Here's some more of what Elder Skousen says;

"Alma 34:15, "And this he shall bring salvation to all those who believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy?" Whose mercy? Our Father already has mercy for us. This is His plan. We don't have to create that in Him. We have to create that in those who are demanding justice. "Father, they have sinned and come short of the glory of God." That is where you must arouse the bowels of mercy which overpowereth justice. And thus, mercy can satisfy the demands of justice and encircle them in the arms of mercy, while he who does not exercise faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of justice. Therefore, only unto him who has exercised this faith is brought about the great and eternal plan of salvation.

These are basic doctrines of the Gospel as it says in Jacob, Chapter 2. I don't know what this knowledge does for you, but it has made me love my Heavenly Father like I never loved Him before. He loves me as much as He loves the Son. He had to go through all that to give me the chance to live with Him again. And I have learned to love my Savior like I have never loved Him before. Now I know what these two wonderful people did for me and you, for my children, and for all the people in the world?for the planet we live on, and for the beautiful things He has blessed us with. They would all be lost if those two beautiful people hadn't done what they did. I love them for that." [emphasis added]

It is absolutely, and all at once, consuming, awe-inspiring, fascinating, and speechlessly humbling to have the gifts and blessings of the Gospel.

Please read the talk in its entirety here:



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Response to "Discerning Spirit from Emotion"

This is a great question that I have pondered a lot in my life. I am eager to hear what other people have come to understand regarding this topic!

I will admit that I have felt that rush of emotion following a good movie, yet as Sean stated, those feelings did not last long after the movie was over, nor did they inspire me to the greater good. Hence, I concluded those "impressions" were not from the spirit. On the other hand, when I have truly felt the spirit in my life one of the words that describes my experiences best is "light." I either felt a greater resolve to be better, the fruits (or result) of acting upon those impressions brought greater happiness, peace or light to my life and/or I experienced a decrease in feelings of anxiety.

I love Galatians 5:22-23 which states : But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. I believe that as we follow true revelation from the spirit we will experience these emotions, often after acting upon, and proving faithful, to the impression. When I have followed impressions that were simply my emotions, or desires of my heart, I have experienced either an increase of anxiety or a sense of despair following my decision. In Moroni 10:22 it states: And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity. I am not saying that I am filled with iniquity because I followed my emotions, but I do feel like the impressions I receive in those moments are a subtle form of iniquity, or deception, because the revelation is not from the Lord.

Now, with that being said...I feel more comfortable with discerning emotion from revelation after I have acted. Learning to discern it quickly upon first impression seems to me to be like learning a new language...learning how the spirit speaks to us. I try to find similarities to prior experiences that I feel confident were the Spirit and compare new impressions to what I experienced in those moments. Admittedly, I feel I am still on a journey towards mastery with this language, but I do feel more confident as I follow these principles and gain further experience.

How Can I Tell The Difference Between The Spirit And My Own Emotions: Response From Sean

Sean - this is a great response. Thanks.

From Sean:

(All thoughts and Ideas here are as such and are not doctrine)It is important to understand the true mission and responsibility of the Holy Ghost first and foremost. Chorinthians chapter 2 reads:9 But as it is written, aEye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath bprepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath arevealed them unto us by his bSpirit: for the cSpirit dsearcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man aknoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God bknoweth no man, cbut the dSpirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the aspirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s awisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost bteacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I believe it is important to realize that the spirit provides us with confirmations of truth and warns us of evil. If you are watching a romantic movie and you feel a great warm feeling it is pearly emotion and not the Holy Ghost telling you to find Patrick Swazey in a pottery studio. The same goes to if you are on the best date of your life and you have great feelings it is typically not the spirit telling you to marry that girl. However, if you have decided to marry a certain person the spirit can defiantly confirm that holy decision. I love the words that Joseph smith spoke to Oliver Cowdry through revelation in Doctrine and covenants chapter 8.1 aOLIVER Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a bknowledge of whatsoever things you shall cask in faith, with an dhonest heart, believing that you shall receive a eknowledge concerning the engravings of old frecords, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the gmanifestation of my Spirit. 2 Yea, behold, I will atell you in your mind and in your bheart, by the cHoly Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. 3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses abrought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. I think one of the most important things that are thought in this scripture is that the spirit will teach us in our mind and our heart. To me this tells us that the promptings of the spirit will be both logical and spiritual. Perhaps the most important part of this scripture is that if we are living righteously the truth will dwell in our hearts and not leave us. For myself personally I never did receive direct revelation that Lynsee (my wife) was the one that I was to marry only a confirmation after I asked the lord if it was the right decision and it wasn’t a burning fire in my bosom only a feeling of comfort that I was making a good decision but the confirmation that she was who I was suppose to marry dwells in my heart and that is a confirmation of truth. Similar to my testimony of the church or Joseph smith it continually dwells in my heart. So the difference between emotion and the prompting of the spirit is that the spirit confirms truth through faith and warns you of evil and dwells in your heart and all other feeling are feeling of emotion. Direct example is that you always remember the feelings of when you were set apart to be a missionary, getting married, when you heard truth spoken trough a talk at church, or when you received confirmation that the book of mormon was true not when you had your first kiss and you swore you received confirmation that you were going to marry that girl

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ok, A New Topic... How Can I Tell The Difference Between The Spirit And My Own Emotions?

I can see that the last topic introduced did not capture the interest or attention of the readers, so lets discuss something else.

How do we determine the difference between feeling the spirit and our own emotion? Is it possible to tell a difference? We speak in terms of "feeling" the spirit, but is it a feeling? When I watch a romantic movie that makes invokes a feeling of love or passion, is that the spirit? How about people that get "spiritual witnesses" to acts or beliefs that are so obviously wrong (like believing the spirit told you to leave your wife, or kill another individual) how can we really know such things?

Is it possible for God to communicate truth? If so, how can we tell it is from God?

I feel strongly about the answer to this question. Before putting in my two cents I would like to see other people's thoughts...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Does A Physical Body Help Protect Us Against Evil?

Here are some very interesting quotes from Joseph Smith:

“Before the foundation of Earth in the Grand Counsel… the Spirits of all Men were subject to oppression & the express purpose of God in Givening [them] a tabernacle was to arm [them] against the power of Darkness.”

“For it is a Natureal thing with those spirits that has the most power to bore down on those of lesser power.”

Words of Joseph Smith, 62, 68

This is a fascinating doctrine, and powerful. We often think (because it is true) that our bodies are fallen and are the primary reason we are vulnerable to sin. But this teaching gives insight into how we can overcome sin and evil. How do we use our bodies to overcome the Adversary?

One possible answer: Through the sanctification of our bodies to our spirit - which is the submission of the flesh to the spirit - brings tremendous power and strength over the powers of darkness. How does this relate to the resurrection? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Henry Eyring: Come Unto Christ

I love this talk. Elder Eyring talks about Coming Unto Christ. It has inspiried me and I wanted to post it for anyone who wants to take a few minutes to listen to it. It was recorded a while ago, so there is no video - but please listen to it and let me know what you think

Also - this is the best rendition of Come Thou Font Of Every Blessing I have ever heard. I know it is old school 1980's BYU (as you can tell by the hair) but I really love it. This is with out question my favorite hymn.