The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You
There is a school of thought out there that I have come across that frowns upon certainty or is at least highly skeptical of it. Tolstoy’s quote points out how hard it can be to change one’s mind if they are “firmly persuaded” that they “already know”.
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”2 Nephi 9:28-29
“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”)2 Nephi 28:29-30
The scriptures from the Book of Mormon likewise talk about “know[ing] of themselves” and thinking that you “have enough” knowledge.Read Full Post
– Abraham Lincoln
– Joseph Campbell
There is truly opposition in all things isn’t there? Name absolutely anything and *poof* there will be someone with a reason for opposing it. Where there is an object and visible light, there will be a shadow.
It’s all good though, that’s the way it should be, we’re here to have options that challenge us. To see what we will choose do with the time and information we have at our disposal is the great purpose of life.
“In God’s great wisdom he has deliberately made the symbols of the temple unique, because their very uniqueness demands the mind ask the questions: Why do we do that? What’s the meaning of that? What’s the significance of this? These are the very questions God wants us to answer, the danger is not that we will ask the questions, the danger is that we become so familiar we stop asking the questions.” – Michael S. Wilcox, Blessings of the House of the Lord, 1999
This quote goes great with this article – think about it.
We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him.(Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:8)
Came across this quote in Elder Bednar’s latest book Power to Become, the third in a trilogy of really great books.
There are so many wonderful concepts in this one quote. I’m not going to attempt to provide any commentary on it because I think that a good 20 minutes of pondering these words is sufficient for the Spirit to open your mind to more wonderful things.
I can tell I’m going to like Power to Become, I’m only 20 pages in and I’m quite impressed with the boldness of the doctrine Bednar is laying down. I’ll have to do a full review later, but the first 20 pages alone are more than worth the purchase of this book.
“The Latter-day Saints are in many respects like other people who are not Latter-day Saints. We are apt to entertain views which are not very correct, and which may be the result of our traditions and preconceived ideas. This is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally, that whenever they deal with the things of God, or speak about them, or contemplate them, and especially when they read the predictions made by the servants of God concerning future events, or events that may transpire right before their eyes, they are apt to get, sometimes, erroneous ideas, or, at least, exaggerated ideas, in relation to them.” – George Q. Cannon, JD 21:264
I have seen the impact of traditions and preconceived ideas in my own experience, and overcoming them has been necessary to growing closer to God. One might assume that we are safe in just sticking with whatever we learn at Church and are taught by our leaders, but Ezra Taft Benson warned:
“Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble…” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1949, p. 163, Apr. 1969, p. 11)
Now don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water, remember that George Q. Cannon observed that this is a peculiarity that pertains to mankind generally. Sometimes we are exposed to false ideas intentionally or unintentionally, but this shouldn’t concern us that much. Part of our mortal experience is seeing whether or not we will put forth the effort to discern light from darkness.
While we should never take lightly the instruction given by the apostles and prophets sent to us, we should remember that the Holy Spirit works in tandem with their words. The key here is a personal relationship with God and eyes and ears that can hear the voice of the Spirit. Everything you put your trust in should be examined in light of the Holy Scriptures and by much pondering and feedback from on high.
Without the Spirit, even Jesus’ preaching is reduced to simple stories about plants, debtors, pearls, lamps, thieves, weddings and sheep.
Personal conversion to actual doctrines of the Gospel and a correct understanding of true principles of the Gospel will bring us closer to God. All ideas should be held up to the light of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Some may err in their delivery of the message, we may err in what we thought we heard or in how we interpreted what we heard, but the Spirit transcends the limitations of our language and the deficiency of our perceptions.
Blindly trusting in the philosophies of men, traditions and preconceived ideas, without seeking understanding, will sustain the chasm that stands between us and God making us ripe for extremes and apostasy.
Let’s be honest with ourselves about what we only believe versus what we truly know and have the courage and faith to invest in the path that leads to knowledge. It may require us to confess to ourselves that we only really believe what we merely assumed that we “knew” because we grew up and based our lives upon a tradition.
Put it all to the test; purging your life of erroneous traditions and preconceived ideas is a humbling experience but it is completely worth it!
President David O. McKay once said that he was “disappointed” when he first went through the Temple and he explains why. I think this could be helpful to any who are preparing for the temple, or who are still trying to understand what it is all about.
Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience. I have now found out why. There are two things in every Temple: mechanics, to set forth certain ideals, and symbolism, what those mechanics symbolize. I saw only the mechanics when I first went through the Temple. I did not see the spiritual. I did not see the symbolism of spirituality… I was blind to the great lesson of purity behind the mechanics. I did not hear the message of the of the Lord… How many of us young men saw that? We thought we were big enough and with intelligence sufficient to criticize the mechanics of it and we were blind to the symbolism, the message of the spirit. And then that great ordinance, the endowment. The whole thing is simple in the mechanical part of it, but sublime and eternal in its significance. (From Gregory Prince and Wm. Robert Wright. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005): 277)
I appreciated these words from President McKay. I think we all spend most of our first trips to the temple focusing on the mechanics if we were not adequately instructed on learning through symbolic teaching. While the initiatory has many parallels to baptism and confirmation, there’s nothing comparable to the endowment anywhere else in Latter-day Saint worship.
I think the closest you can get are the accounts recorded in scripture where a prophet is taken up into the presence of the Lord, guided by angels and shown the creation of the world and given sacred knowledge. At one level, I believe the endowment is a symbolic “ascension vision”, similar to the experiences of Abraham, Moses, Enoch, Nephi, and the Brother of Jared to name a few.
Here’s another great quote from President McKay:
“Brothers and sisters, I was disappointed in the temple. And so were you. […] There are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence. […] If our young people could but glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives!” (Andrew Ehat, ” ‘Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May 1842,” Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1994), 58-59.)
President Spencer W. Kimball had this to say about the ordinances of the Temple:
“If you understood the ordinances of the House of the Lord, you would crawl on your hands and feet for thousands of miles in order to receive them!” (Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, p. 58-59)
There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. (Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon)
A great resource to begin understanding the character of God are the Lectures on Faith, particularly the third lecture which specifically examines six points that define the character of God. Below is an excerpt from this lecture which details these six points:
- First, That he was God before the world was created, and the same God that he was, after it was created.
- Secondly, That he is merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that he was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting.
- Thirdly, That he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday to-day and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.
- Fourthly, That he is a God of truth and cannot lie.
- Fifthly, That he is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him.
- Sixthly, That he is love.
It’s one thing to read about these things, it is another to know them by experience. In what ways has God provided us with the paths that lead us to this knowledge concerning his character?
“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
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines denote as:
DENOTE, verb transitive [Latin To note or mark.] 1. To mark; to signify by a visible sign; to indicate; to express.
I would like to thank a new friend of mine for an observation he made in a recent email exchange:
“I thought I understood the idea of stand ye in holy places, but now I see it as, ye stand in holy places. What’s holy and sacred in us, goes where we go if our intent is to be holy and sacred.” (Emphasis added)
I’m a fan of Boyd K. Packer. Behind that gravely-sounding voice is a fascinating mind that has provided some powerful insights and refreshing commentary on the latter-day work and Church. Currently, I’m serving as an elders quorum president in my ward and one of the biggest challenges I have been facing is how to bless the lives of families without burdening them with well-intentioned programs and what not.
I’m not a fan of programs and meetings. Although I believe that they can be necessary at times, I also believe that we create monsters that do the opposite of help. I see a similarity between how a country drifts into tyranny because of a bunch of well-intentioned politicians who try to solve every problem with new programs and tons of money and well-intentioned church leaders who dream up bloated programs that burden families and almost never work.
So I really appreciated this rather frank and sensible talk from Elder Packer that was given at a Regional Representatives Seminar Friday, March 30, 1990 (original source). What I did was pull out some of the highlights that I found most interesting and included them below. If you serve in any leadership capacity in the church, this address is an important read, so here it is…Read Full Post
Freshly led out of Egypt, the children of Israel were delivered by a series of miracles that seem like they must have been incredible to witness. Camped at the base of mount Sinai, they were left alone without their leader, Moses. During this time they could have lived by the memory of what they had seen, they could have remembered and been true to what was shown to them. Instead, in a matter of days they were building new gods to worship. How quickly they had forgotten, how unable they were to walk when left alone.
Walking alone is part of the process
The following is a few excerpts from a paper written by Terryl L. Givens called “Letter to a Doubter” which I read recently on Mormon Interpreter. He illustrates this principle of patience when walking alone and the importance of remembering.
I have experienced this phenomenon often in my life where I have these incredible revelatory and enlightening experiences followed by silence and a sense of spiritual isolation. I’ve often wondered if I was being rejected by God or if I had done something to offend him by my actions or not being true enough to his commandments. I’ve talked to others that Read Full Post
There are so many levels that this subject can be explored on but I will only be addressing the few that I think are the most interesting at the moment. The drama begins when a particular article was published in the old “Improvement Era” magazine back in June of 1945. The repercussions of this article seem to have survive to this day with those who are against the LDS Church and with those who are IN the LDS Church who still believe the false aspects that were presented in the article.
The article is very heavy-handed in its approach to the subject of sustaining, so much so that it advocates blind, unthinking obedience, a way of behavior directly opposed to the doctrine of agency. A concerned Unitarian minister wrote then President George Albert Smith who Read Full Post
“The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.” (Lord, I Believe, April 2013 General Conference)
What a great line from Jeffery Holland! I have often erroneously thought to myself, “I can’t wait until I have greater faith so that I can do greater things!”
Maybe this is what the Lord meant when speaking of faith as small as a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). It isn’t the size of the faith but the degree of integrity toward your current faith where all sufficient power is found.
I don’t know who wrote the following story but I remembered hearing it a long time ago and it has always been a powerful metaphor for helping me through rough times. I was thinking about it the other day when I used it to illustrate a point to a group of people and decided to look up the original, or at least whatever I could find that was closest to the original (apparently the author is unknown).
My mom used to cross-stitch so I know exactly what the kid in the story is talking about when he sees the tangled mess; amazing what perspective and trust can do.
When I was a little boy, my mother used to embroider a great deal. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering. I told her that it looked like a mess from where I was. As from the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat. She would smile at me, look down and gently say, “My son, you go about your playing for a while, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side.”
I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother’s voice say, “Son, come and sit on my knee.”
This I did only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. I could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.
Then Mother would say to me, “My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing.”
Many times through the years I have looked up to my Heavenly Father and said, “Father, what are You doing?” He has answered, “I am embroidering your life.” I say, “But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can’t they all be bright?”
The Father seems to tell me, “My child, you go about your business of doing My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side.”
- “The Savior wants us to understand his willingness to forgive” – Craig A. Cardon
- “Procreative power & priesthood power are shared by husband & wife” – M. Russell Ballard
- “I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra.” – Henry B. Eyring
- “As home teachers, we are healers. As priesthood leaders, we are healers. As fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands, we should be committed and dedicated healers. We carry in one hand a vial of consecrated oil for blessing the sick; in the other we carry a loaf of bread to feed the hungry; and in our hearts we carry the peaceable word of God, “which healeth the wounded soul.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
- “accept that darkness exists—but not to dwell there” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
- “humility is the essence of repentance” – L. Whitney Clayton
- “he hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh” – 2 Ne 4:21
- “why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?” – 2 Ne. 4:27
- The priesthood enables intelligence to influence all things according to the will of God.
- True sacrifice never involves the loss of what is essential.
- Finding yourself in darkness is inevitable, it is also necessary.
- “Rust ruins more tools than overuse.” – Anonymous
- “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” – 2 Ne. 1:15
- The priesthood is the means whereby things are organized and exalted.
- “Repentance is not a turning away, it is a turning towards.” – R. Anderson
- “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Eccl. 9:11
- Strength can come from knowledge. It can bestow the power to act or the opportunity for the power of God to act in our behalf.
- Faith is intelligence exercising will.
- We don’t comprehend what we are. Using will alone, we drive a cosmos of trillions of atoms and billions of cells to bring amazing things into existence.
- Just as we direct the matter of our bodies by our will alone, it is also possible to direct matter outside our sphere. Great faith can affect matter outside of the sphere of one’s body. Perfect faith, like God’s, can organize the macrocosmos.
- Faith is exercised through ‘channels’ and life is about searching for and finding the ones that fill us with light and life.
- Faith and fear are both actions taken towards things believed but not yet seen; fear only cares about what avoids pain.
- Fear will forsake truth to avoid pain while faith will receive truth even through pain.
- “The will acts upon the body in producing motion.” – Noah Webster
- The atonement is not something to ‘fill in the gaps’ in our lives, our lives themselves are transformed as we approach this atonement. In the end, we are completely converted and totally redeemed by it.
- The faith of any intelligence is only as strong as its will.
- “The understanding or reason compares different objects, which operate as motives; the judgment determines which is preferable, and the will decides which to pursue.In other words, we reason with respect to the value or importance of things; we then judge which is to be preferred; and we will to take the most valuable.” – Noah Webster
- “Desire is that internal act, which by influencing the will, makes us proceed to action.” – Noah Webster
Pictured above is my latest rendering of the Nephite Interpreters that were in the possession of Joseph Smith for a time. I have always wondered what these instruments must have looked like so I began by creating a few simple illustrations. Over time, the illustrations evolved into a more realistically rendered piece of art and this is the latest version. One day, I think it would be interesting to try to construct a physical model.
You can begin to get an idea of what these interpreters must have looked like by examining quotes from witnesses that actually saw them; from there you are left with gaps that can only be filled in with speculation. Here are the aspects of this version that I feel are pretty solid:
- Triangular shape of the “stones”
- Figure-8 design of the frame
- “Glass” setting for the interpreters
Here are the characteristics that are speculations and assumptionsRead Full Post
In the very quote that inspired the title of this blog, Rene Daumal penned a profound though: “You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again.”
The purpose of the climb is to reach the summit and to see. Then one must climb again but downward to return and live according to what the climb revealed. The summit is not actually the end or the destination, but the halfway point. Life itself is a climb, but so are individual pursuits for truth.
You were never meant to stay there and you cannot survive there, even though it is beautiful and you can see much better than you can below.
Rene suggested that “There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.” and that “When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
You’ll notice that none of the ordinances of the gospel imply that you have permanently “arrived”. After baptism, you come up out of the water and back into life, after the sacrament you go home and start your labors again the next day, and after a temple session you leave the Celestial Room and return to the “Telestial” world.
What is the point of this?
My good friend and old Institute teacher had a saying that he picked up from his grandmother: “The temple is like a great mold; the more your pour yourself into it, the more you become like it.”
Each time we climb, we are supposed to see and take back with us a knowledge of higher things to put into practice down below. Are we are stuck at the top? How many tarried for a while and returned empty handed? The climb itself may not bring knowledge but it always generates strength. The purpose of the climb is to receive and not to demand, we must be content with what the master is willing to give us in his wisdom.
“There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions…” we get to try what we learned, we get to make mistakes and keep practicing. Covered by grace, our mistakes are acceptable only as we repent, learn from them and are perpetually willing to allow ourselves to change.
I’d like to thank my brother-in-law, A.J. for turning me on to Epictetus and Stoicism, it is a fascinating philosophy and has helped me round out my own views that I found reflected in many of the core concepts. Truth is everywhere and all truth belongs to the Saints; we do ourselves an eternal injustice by willingly limiting our exposure to knowledge. That said, Epictetus wasn’t 100% doctrinally correct, but there are many great nuggets of wisdom.
First off, let me help you with the pronunciation, first we’ve got Epictetus (e-peek-ti-tos) and then Enchiridion (en-kahy-rid-ee-uh) which is “often shortened to simply “The Handbook”, is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, who had been a pupil of Epictetus at the beginning of the 2nd century.” [via Wiki]
Read and enjoy!
1. Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one wordRead Full Post